January 31st, 2014
Guess what the U.S Military Academy needs help with. Here’s a hint — same thing as scientists. I sat at lunch with these cadets asking, “So is there a communications department here?” Nope. “And no film program?” Nope. “And no media center where you guys can make videos?” Nope. Nothing. Doesn’t the military know what a fundamental part of today’s world communication is? One of them said, “Keep in mind, this place was founded by engineers.” Bingo.
MA BOYZ. These are some of the members of the Film Forum at West Point. To my right is my buddy Tony Holland. He’s the cadet who contacted me last year, out of the blue, after reading about my book online. He had no clue my father graduated in the class of 1939. They are all incredibly sharp folks. And there are lots of women around, though not in this group.
DON’T BE SUCH A CADET
My father, rest his soul, was the world’s worst storyteller. He had a passion for military history, and he bored the holy hell out of our entire family with it. It is out of some bizarre backwards respect and fondness for him that I am waging this planetary campaign against boredom.
So I’ve spent a few decades trying to pinpoint the source of the boredom in the science world. Now I see the same problems at the United States Military Academy. Amazing. They get very little if any training in communications. The result is a lot of robotic speakers. Which really is not a good thing in today’s rapidly communicating world. But I’ll let them grapple with that.
“40 YEARS OF SILENCE”
We had a fascinating screening of the latest rough cut of my movie, “40 Years of Silence,” to a small group of cadets. Even more fascinating than the movie than the movie was our post-screening panel discussion. I moderated it with the three very interesting fellows — John Patterson (founder of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society and friend of my father), Dan Crowley who fought on Bataan in 1941 at the start of World War II then ended up as a POW, and Major General Edward Mechenbier who was a POW in Vietnam (see below).
RETRACING MY FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS. Pretty fascinating day. Today’s cadets are not the rigid, robotic creatures of days gone by. In civilian clothes you would have thought you were just talking to a group of undergrads. Except that they all say, “Yes, sir,” to everything. Actually, they would probably be good at improv given that habit — they’re all set to say, “YES, sir, AND …” to everything.
90 IS THE NEW 25. That’s Dan Frickin’ Crowley in the middle. The guy is in my movie and is a medical marvel. He’s 91.5 years old, his girlfriend is 54 and extremely cool — he introduced her to two of the West Point colonels saying, “She served in the corps.” They smiled and replied, “Oh, Marines, hunh?” to which he howled with laughter saying, “NO! The PEACE Corps, in Africa for five years!” He’s as full of life as a 25 year old, despite having been a prisoner of war in Japan from 1942 to 1945. The fellow on the left is equally amazing — Major General Edward Mechenbier, who was a POW in Vietnam for 6 years after he was shot down. He ended up being the last Vietnam POW to retire from the military. He was as equally funny and charming as Dan. How in the world these guys could endure so much abuse and still have such a great sense of humor is truly amazing.
THE OLD MAN, 1939. That’s my dad, all dressed up, West Point cadet, Class of 1939. It was a different world back then, by a long ways. If he’d seen me there at West Point on Monday he’d have been pleased. Though if he’d heard Dan Crowley talk about how we need to “finish the job” with Japan he’d probably be as distressed as the poor cadets who didn’t quite know what to say to his political incorrectness.