Skip to comments.'I Was in the First Wave.'
Posted on 02/24/2010 7:11:38 PM PST by Congressman Billybob
I was at breakfast on Sunday morning at the Sheraton National, in Arlington, Virginia. I was attending a conference elsewhere, but could only find space in Virginia. Also at my hotel were the members of the Iwo Jima Association.
That Association was for survivors of that battle, and for the families of those who did not survive. At the table next to me were two, older gentleman. The younger man was in his 60's. He mentioned at one point where his father was buried at Arlington Cemetery, just a few blocks away. Then the older man, somewhere in his 90's said a simple statement that will follow me to the end of my days.
"I was in the first wave," he said in a soft voice with little hint of any emotion. As he continued, he described how they were taking fire from enemy who were hidden in holes at all points of the compass.
I have seen many war movies. The first one to come to grips with the reality -- which I got from books, and from talking to people who were there -- was "Saving Private Ryan." That movie showed what this elderly man, sitting a few feet away, experienced, 65 years ago this month.
And I sat back and began to think. Has there ever been a time in my life, any time for any reason, that I have been in the first wave? Is there anything I value in my life enough to put my life on the line for its (or their) preservation?
I've never fought in a war. I have deliberately risked my life just once, in a tragi-comic dust-em-up with the local Mafia in Baltimore. But on the other hand, there is one subject, one goal, that has occupied the center of my life since I was teenager. It is the Constitution of the United States.
After 45 years of working with that document I am now certain that the essence of the Constitution is under attack. It is being attacked by people who are ignorant (mostly) or malicious (some) and if they have their way the Constitution will die in our generation.
The actual document will survive, to be sure, in its argon-filled cases at National Archives. But the political, legal and economic results of the document will be lost. It will become only an interesting talisman to be referred to, like the carved heads on the Easter Islands.
Wars fought with ideas have no clear beginning, no clear end. There are major battles in which the ground shifts. Though the nature and the outcomes of those battles may not be known until generations later. Most of the participants may be dead and gone before the results are known.
So be it.
I have fought long and hard in state and federal courts, up to the US Supreme Court. I've written, I've taught, I've spent hours, weeks and months talking with cirizens, candidates, and strangers on buses, about the danger to the Constitution.
It has cost me a huge about of money, since constitutional lawyers do not get paid at anything approaching the pay scales of lawyers who specialize in the legal problems of the well-to-do. It has cost me much of my personal time, since fighting for the Constitution does not end at the close of business, nor does it take time off for weekends and federal holidays.
The said thing is that the worst of the enemies are those who ought to know better. Judges, especially federal judges, most particularly Justices of the Supreme Court, are grossly incompetent if they do not understand that the Constitution is a multifacited limitation on the powers of the federal government. Judges who do not understand that are unfit to put on a robe and step onto a bench at any level.
The other category of the enemies who ought to know better, are elected offic-holders. Everyone in public office takes an oath (or makes an afformation) to respect and protect the Constitution of the United States. Anyone who hasn't read it, or acts like he hasn't read it, does not belong in any public office at any level.
I hope live long enough to see this war won. But if I don't, I hope someone can justly say of me on the occasion of my Irish wake, that "I was in the first wave for the Constitution."
And in time, I hope they begin again teaching in civics class, this statement by Thomas Jefferson, "Put not your faith in man, but bind him down with the chains of the Constitution." And mind you, that does not mean that the Constitution never changes. It changes through the Amendment Article, which George Washington called "the authentic act of the whole people." A majority of the House and Senate, a majority of the Supreme Court, plus the President, do not amount to "the authentic act of the whole people."
I do not compare what I have done to the sacrifices of that man, and his companion's father, 65 years ago. I do say that it is healthy for all of us to have causes larger and outside of ourselves. And if we are fortunate, we may be found in the forefront of those worthwhile intellectual and moral battles.
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About the Author: John Armor practiced law in the US Supreme Court for 33 years. His latest book, on Thomas Paine, will be published this year. www.TheseAreTheTimes.us Reach him here: John_Armor@aya.yale.edu
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John / Billybob
Good post Sir.
I am humbled....
Well said, as always.
"...The actual document will survive, to be sure, in its argon-filled cases at National Archives. But the political, legal and economic results of the document will be lost..."
It is indeed under attack.
I think it is in serious danger because of the cumulative effect of years of chipping away at it, beginning in earnest during the Wilson administration. Over the years, liberals and other like minded parties have seen there are no ramifications to attacking it. There have been some who stood up and defended it, but the tide has been with the liberals since the early 20th century...and so we end up where we are today.
We have a President who views it as an obstruction.
We have people who embrace the concept that The Constitution should be a "living document", which means they can make it whatever they want it to be.
Like you, I once took an oath to defend it.
The time is upon us when we are called to fulfill that oath, in whatever way we can. I don't think it is too late. But it is an uphill battle.
Thank you for posting this.
My father, and the father of a good friend of mine were both at Iwo. Thankfully they’ve both grown into old curmudgeons, but there aren’t too many of those real old timers left.
I much prefer the Constitution, to what we have now.
Excellent and I hope our Constitution can be resurrected and preserved and I’ll be looking for the wave.
Indeed. Not going quietly.
He could not operate a rife well enough.
I will be in the first wave for the Constitution.
Even if it is to only bleed out a stain on the White
House steps when we take it back.
This Republic will stand!
Very well stated, John. Coming from one of the most respected members on this forum, your words have tremendous importance.
Thanks for being here. Thanks for your words. Thanks for your work.
My uncle, who committed suicide years later, was in the second wave to hit the beach. He was only 17 at the time, and never recovered, unfortunately.
One of his jobs was to guard the dead bodies on the beach at night. He had orders to shoot on sight anyone caught looting the dead bodies.
One of my customers, now deceased, joined up right from high school. He enlisted in the Marines, was assigned to the Fifth Division, and saw his first action on Iwo Jima. Looking into his eyes as he mentioned that landing was remarkable; in an instant, he was transported back some fifty years to the sweat and sand and smoke and horror.
Two thirds of the Marines that landed on Iwo became casualties of the battle. I hope we're still worthy of their sacrifice.
His name was Vincent Buongiovanni. His father was a revolutionary with Garibaldi, and the poet laureate of Italy. When Garibaldi went to the Italian community in Brooklyn he stayed at the Buongiovanni household
Vinnie told me about what he had seen, what he had done, how it'd burned into his mind and focused his life.
I am not sure he told his own family of those events. He passed a decade ago and has but a single reference on the internet.
The old timers are passing fast ~ wish I had had the inexpensive video equipment I have today and I'd filmed Vinnie telling about what war in the Pacific was really like, and what he did after he returned and built a life.
Keep telling his story and keep his memory alive - especially tell his family if you can. What you wrote here is a good start. God Bless you for remembering!