That’s right, now you can “buy” a military service record. Well, sort of.
A former Army infantry solider, John Park, is auctioning off his military record on eBay. It goes on sale Dec. 14th under the listing, “For The Man Who Has Everything,” to be sold to the highest bidder on Dec. 23rd.
Exactly who needs a military record for Christmas? According to Park, “Quite a few hawks. Actually, the chicken-hawks, the ones that didn’t serve in the military.” Park quips, “That’s why I call it YAWN (You’re a War-Hero Now), `cause that’s what I do when I hear them advocating war with Iraq, a war they won’t fight themselves.”
“I expect the buyer to be against the war, someone fed up with one hawk in particular.” The former G.I. can’t help but grin when he says, “It’s the ultimate slap in the face for a hawk, someone buying them a military record. Can’t you just picture the sour face on a pompous hawk when they find this under their tree?”
Park’s military record is unique, but not for the reasons you probably think. During his tour of duty (1983 – 85) he was one of the few people from a white, middleclass background serving in the enlisted ranks as an infantry soldier, and the only one with a college degree in the entire 193rd Infantry Brigade.
Although the draft was abolished in 1973, Park thought it was important for middleclass Americans to do their part. “Obviously, I was alone in my beliefs, `cause I was the only Young Republican enlistee on my base.” But it took more than being “an Army of one” for him to turn his back on long held GOP ideals.
“I woke up at 2 AM one Sunday to shouts, ‘We’re going to war!’ For twelve long, agonizing hours we sat with our M-16s while people got sick, really sick, waiting to board choppers and go to war. But nobody would tell us where we were going, who we’d be fighting, or even why. It was utterly and completely insane. If you’ve gotta die for your country, they can at least tell you why.”
As it turned out, Park’s outfit, the 1st/187th Infantry Battalion, based at Ft. Davis, Panama, never boarded those choppers. They weren’t needed for what turned out to be a mission to rescue American medical students studying in Grenada, dubbed The Grenada Invasion.
“Lots of people roll their eyes when you say Grenada. They say, ‘That wasn’t even a real battle.’” Park snaps, “Tell it to the soldier that lost a leg there, or the families of the ones that died there.’”
“That’s the problem,” says Park with a deep sigh, “we’re bombarded by hawks that don’t understand the real consequences of war.”
Now a staunch Independent, Park isn’t shy about where he stands on the war debate. “I’m all for going after Osama. But Iraq? No way.” However, he readily admits, “I know I see it different from most middleclass people because I was a grunt (a frontline soldier).”
However, Park is far from the first person in his family to have served. His father fought in WWII, as did five uncles. And two of them made the ultimate sacrifice for their country; Bill Pace, a graduate of the Naval Academy and a fighter pilot, was shot down over the Pacific, and Gardner Park, a decorated infantry officer, was killed in the D-Day invasion.
Given his family’s distinguished history of military service, one has to wonder how he can part so easily with his military record. Park is quick to answer. “You have any idea what the unemployment rate is for Vets? About double the national average.”
Park joined their ranks last December when his job as Program Director for ABC Television Affiliate WTXL in Tallahassee, FL, was consolidated due to a corporate merger. But he was concern-ed about the staggering unemployment rate for Veterans long before he became a statistic.
Part of his job at WTXL was selecting Public Service Announcements for the station. “I looked all over the country for PSAs that urged people to hire Vets, but couldn’t find any.”
Still boyish looking with his blonde hair and bright blue eyes, Park laments, “When I was a kid PSAs with the slogan, ‘Hire the Vet,’ ran all the time. But now nobody cares in the middle and upper classes `cause they don’t serve in the military. Even worse, they’re the ones that make hiring decisions.”
Although Park is still looking for a job even after sending out hundreds of resumes, all is not bleak. He and fellow writer Larry Gordon recently made a deal with a small publisher to co-write a non-fiction book about shark attacks in The Gulf of Mexico. And having appeared in commercials and the cult classic, DEADLY PREY, a campy 1987 film in which he plays—ironically—a soldier, Park hopes to land some work as an actor. “Maybe someone in Hollywood is willing to hire a vet. Maybe I can even play a soldier again.”
Asked if he’d do it all again, serve as a solider in real life, Park stares out the window at the cold rain outside, “In a perfect world, sure. But then we wouldn’t need a military, would we?”
So why would he sell his military record in an imperfect world? “Starting a war’s easy, but a lotta people are gonna get stuck with the dirty work. And that means they won’t be home for the Holidays, not this year . . . and some not ever again. I hope the hawk that winds up with my old military record will take just a minute to think about that on Christmas morning.”
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About the writer: Jim Broaddus is a veteran of 30-plus years in the broadcast industry, including stints as owner and general manager of more than a dozen radio stations. He is now a wildlife conservationist and freelance writer living in Panama City, Florida. Contact him at: (850) 722-9927 or firstname.lastname@example.org