The Outstater: The Combat Vietnam Veterans M.C.

September 21, 2016

“In an all-Navy message published Tuesday, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke said a three-pronged training approach will equip senior leaders and rank-and-file personnel for the changes (to open transgender service).” —, Sept. 16, 2016

HAVING BREAKFAST one Sunday off U.S. 931 in Kokomo, reading about NFL players protesting Western Civilization, I was witness to one of those micro-events that runs counter to the popular narrative.

It was a group of veterans on motorcycles. They rumbled in off the highway, some with a wife or girlfriend on the buddy seat. What you noticed was that the were aged for motorcyclists, in their late 60s and 70s. Also, they did not exude that victim status assigned by today’s culture to their like.

Indeed, they looked menacing — a lot like a biker gang, which, in fact, they were, an exclusive one. The black leather jackets and vests carried the banner “Combat Vietnam Veterans M.C. (Motorcycle Club),” chapter unknown. I did not see any safety helmets.

They sported assorted patches and pins depicting service medals and unit insignia undecipherable to anyone but other Vietnam combat veterans. One had a baseball cap with the quip, “We Were Winning When I Left.”

Now, there are a number of veterans groups organized into motorcycle clubs around the country. They have web sites explaining the club’s mission, generally a list of civic or charitable objectives. This was not one of them.

“We are computer illiterates,” a member volunteered when asked for an Internet address. The group professes no real purpose or good work for which to register, he explained. Its “members” simply ride around the country in their colors “telling each other lies.” And if those were holster bulges, the membership was prepared for anyone who might object to that.

These were not men who ever needed much help from the government. Nor did they carry themselves as those who consider their military service a particular sacrifice. The attitude was one of “duty and honor,” the message on several patches — that and the heavy sense of resignation surrounding men who by mercy have survived an experience that cannot be fully shared with the innocent.

The young party laughing at the corner table could not know that few of these men had enlisted out of any outdated, maudlin sense of patriotism. Nor had they been necessarily out of work, in trouble with the law, making a diversity statement or looking for a military career. They certainly hadn’t answered any popular call that they were needed to fight for their country.

In fact, some did not enlist at all. They were conscripted, yanked off the street and drafted into distant jungle combat by a government preoccupied at home with impossible visions of social justice. One by one they came back, having done the job ordered, which (trigger warning) was to seek out the enemy and kill as many of them as possible, and then be prepared to do it again as need be.

Oh, and the Combat Vietnam Veterans M.C. doesn’t parade. Nobody wants to be reminded of any of that on a sunny autumn day in 2016.

— Craig Ladwig


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