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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  March 9, 2008
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Topic category:  Other/General

A royal "grunt."

Good for him.

I admit, though, that I was a bit surprised at the news because, last year, I’d heard that Britain’s Prince Harry wouldn’t be going to the war zone even though he’d graduated from Sandhurst - the British military academy - and had completed training as a tanker.

He was denied permission to deploy with his regiment because one of the cardinal rules of combat is to never be conspicuous. Being third in line to the British throne makes you more than conspicuous, it makes you what’s known in military circles as a “bullet magnet” which can irritate the heck out of those around you.

However, after being denied permission to deploy, Prince Harry retrained as a tactical air controller - the individual who calls in air support for ground forces - and, upon completing his training, was quietly assigned to a unit in Afghanistan.

What was remarkable was that the British press knew about this and, even though the media is ever alert for anything to feed the 24/7 news monster, they kept things quiet in order to keep the prince and others from being unnecessarily endangered.

The folks in the “head shed” were thinking too. Prince Harry was based near a Gurkha unit.

For those of you not familiar with the Gurkhas, I’ll simply say that if you ever had to be in a fight, having the Gurkhas nearby would be akin to having a “locked and cocked” SWAT team in your living room when a burglar decided to break in. In fact, someone once described fighting them as being pretty near the same as bear-hugging a roaring chainsaw.

Once his presence in Afghanistan was made known by the Drudge Report, however, the powers that be decided to bring him home.

Some thoughts:

Did he have to be there?

No way. Not even close. If there’s a family anywhere that defines privilege, it’s his. Still, with all of his money and with all of the avenues open to him, he volunteered to be with the troops. I admire that in anyone. I especially admire those who do it when they don’t have to. I only wish that more members of the “privileged” classes everywhere would do the same.

At the top of my reasons why, I’d offer (as I’ve mentioned before) that if the offspring of many of our poohbahs were in uniform, there might be just a tad more hesitation, thought, debate, and hand-wringing in the halls of power before we decided to start breaking things in a big way.

Too, the young men and women themselves would gain a very personal understanding of what it means to leave loved ones behind. Of what it means to be up at “oh dark thirty” standing watch in some unwashed armpit of the planet. Of what it means to have to put up with immensely long periods of stultifying boredom only to have that boredom punctuated by the occasional bowel or bladder loosening moment when everything around you goes to hell in a major way.

Such memories might serve them (and us) well when they later step into positions of responsibility.

While in uniform, they might also pick up some tidbits of knowledge not generally found in textbooks, MBA courses, or on the steps of the corporate ladders they may soon be climbing. These would include such lessons as:

If, in really tough situations, people see you leading from the front, they’ll pretty much follow you anywhere.

Those who go through those tough situations together forge bonds that can seldom be broken.

Being able to trust others with your life is a feeling you never forget and letting those people down is a crime you’d never commit.

Respect has never and will never come from rank or titles alone.

And, when all is said and done, money and influence are by far the poorest indicators of character and honor.

Maybe Prince Harry was cocooned while he was out there. Maybe he was kept far from the front lines. Maybe his patrols were always in quiet areas. Maybe a lot of things but - in places like Afghanistan - snipers, insurgents, and IED’s pay very little attention to “lines.”

For a time, Prince Harry put away all of his wealth and privilege and voluntarily went with his fellow countrymen and women to where the spears are sharp.

Good for him.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.


Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2008 by Larry Simoneaux
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