Attention Military: Riddick Bowe? About Face!
Riddick Bowe, right, Defeats Evander Holyfield in 1995
These Are 'Real' U.S. Marines
The Cold War may be over, but there's no shortage of hot or potentially explosive situations around the world.
There have been a few military cutbacks since the Soviet Union bowed to the pressures of history and a flawed economic and political system, but the United States still must spend huge amounts of money to maintain, equip and pay the gallant men and women whose job is to keep us out of harm's way.
Should any of the festering conflicts around the world flare up, we'll need all of our resources to handle them. Just look at what it took to quell Saddam Hussein's ambitions in Kuwait.
But, based on some things I've heard recently, the military doesn't appear to be the same one that I served for three years.
Case in point: Riddick Bowe.
Bowe, for the uninitiated, is a former heavyweight (boxing) champion.
Earlier this year, the press reported that Bowe had joined the U.S. Marines.
Personally, I was puzzled by the announcement. Why would a boxer who can make millions for a single prize fight want to give up his income, as well as his freedom, to become a Marine recruit? It didn't make sense to me.
Shortly afterward the media reported that Bowe said he didn't like the Marines and, therefore, decided to quit.
Quit? Quit the Marines?
The report was incomprehensible.
Ask any oldtime soldier. sailor, Marine, airman or Coastguardsman about quitting the service -- during basic training, or at any time.
It isn't done! It can't be done!
Not Wanted by Marines
The Marines confirmed this later when they issued a statement saying that Bowe did not quit after all; the Marines didn't want him!
I didn't see any reaction to that story. But another story soon surfaced saying that Bowe was considering reapplying to the Marines.
The media, I must say, parenthetically, has done an overall incompetent job of covering this story.
Riddick Bowe: A Big Wimp?
No one asked the question: How can a champion heavyweight boxer be such a big wimp? Or, even, how can anyone just up and quit the Marines?
Sure, there's been a lot of changes in the military since I served three years in the Army in the '50s. For one, today's dogfaces make a whole lot more that the $78 a month I received.
Training may have changed somewhat since those days, but I'm sure the military still aims to instill unquestioned discipline and wants to be certain that every man, or woman, has the high degree of physical conditioning necessary to insure that the job gets done.
Trainees Taught Humility
In the '50s, the training cadre let the recruits know that no matter who they thought they might be in civilian life in the military service they were just another trainee. The recruits were not handled with kid gloves; on the contrary, one could say without fear of contradiction that they were treated like dirt -- or perhaps that's being too mild. They were taught humility.
In any event, Bowe would have had his face rubbed in the mud by fellow trainees, and the cadre, had he cried about his fate in my outfit -- notwithstanding his "champion" sobriquet.
More likely, he would have won his discharge from the Marines, but not before he faced a court martial for refusal to obey orders (to undergo training.)
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaperof Norwalk, Conn., on April 26, 1997.