After watching a couple of golf tourneys these past two weekends I found myself feeling a little “golfy”. This is the inclination that seeps into my subconscious after a sufficient amount of time has passed for me to have mostly forgotten the less than desirable outcome of my most recent foray to the links.
Thus, ignoring Einstein’s premise that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time, I cheerfully headed out to Blue Sky without a tee time to play a pickup round with someone or, perhaps, join another group who had room for me—this is something I used to do all the time back in my travel days. And, sure enough, upon my arrival at the tee box, the starter teamed me up with another solo player who was also looking for a game. And off we went.
My new acquaintance, a twenty-nine-year-old named Matt, chose to tee off from the “blues” (way back there) and I decided to stick with the standard whites (my dignity will not allow me to go up to the red ladies’ tee, thank you very much, which some have suggested is better suited to my capabilities). As it turned out we were surprisingly well-matched: he could hit the ball a mile but had no idea where it was going to end up; in my case, I don’t hit the ball very far, but also have no idea where it’s going to end up.
At any rate, as we worked our way around the first nine I was delighted to learn that I was playing golf with a baseball pitcher who had played in the minors for the Chicago Cubs for four-and-a-half years. Upon further enquiry I learned he was just finishing up a temporary assignment with an independent league while rehabbing through a shoulder injury.
Through the course of conversation Matt asked me about my background as well. My response included among other things an off-hand reference to my four years of active duty in the United States Coast Guard.
All in all, it was a most enjoyable afternoon even though neither of us played particularly well. And in keeping with my established skill level, I managed to double-bogey the last hole (that’s two strokes over par for you non-golfers).
Ah, but this is the hole where one is supposed to get a great score in order to “make one’s day!” and thus, (blowing off Einstein once again) be encouraged to come back as soon as possible and try the whole thing all over again. In my case, this mystical phenomenon could only occur in the event of the immediate onset of amnesia, which would cause me to forget how I managed to get all sweaty and covered in sand and mud and lose six brand new balls and a sock before arriving at the eighteenth tee. So, it certainly wasn’t that last hole that made my day: rather, it was a comment from Matt earlier in the afternoon when I made reference to my veteran status that made my day. He said something, in fact, I had not realized until that moment that no one had ever said to me. Here it is: “Thank you for your service.”
Well, my first reaction to Matt’s statement was to be a little embarrassed, and here are the reasons why:
First of all, it seems to me that this gracious comment would best be directed to one who has courageously exposed him- or herself to great personal risk in order to protect the lives and property of others, such as in mortal combat. In my case, I have never so much as aimed a firearm at another person; nor, to my knowledge, has any person ever aimed a firearm at me (with the possible exception of one of my exes). In fact, the only time I ever had the opportunity to discharge a military firearm was in boot camp. I never set foot in a combat zone; and was only ever considered to be in harm’s way by virtue of being an aircraft search-and-rescue aircrewman (the Guard paid me hazardous duty flight pay for that, which was not undue since I managed to be a party to a helicopter crash during my tour of duty—but that’s another story.)
Another reason I felt a bit awkward was because I admit to harboring a little “survivor’s guilt”. This bubbles to the surface when I consider the stark contrast between my relatively mundane military experience as compared to those who variously sacrificed life, limb and, often, their innocence in the Viet Nam war as well as in countless other past and current conflicts.
So, I’m thinking maybe the acceptance of such a comment is simply not fitting in my case.
On the other hand, I did, in fact, dedicate four irretrievable years of my youth in service to my country. And I might add that four years, in the eyes of an eighteen-year-old, or twenty-year-old in my case, seems like an eternity, regardless of one’s duty stations. In the case of Matt, it would represent nearly his entire career with the Cubs to-date.
Given this quandary, Merriam-Webster comes to the rescue with an apt term: “honorable mention”, which is defined as a distinction conferred upon persons who are of exceptional merit but not deserving of top honors.
So, upon further reflection I decided to allow myself the indulgence of believing that maybe those of us who dedicated our time in non-combat roles might deserve at least a little appreciation as well, if only in the form of honorable mention. And everyone knows it’s nice to be appreciated. In fact, even nicer than a birdie on eighteen (that’s one under par for you non-golfers).
Regarding my golfing skills: I’m considering a recommendation made to Willie Nelson about his golfing skills, as reported by Chris Kornelis, a journalist. In an interview with Kornelis, Nelson said he was once joking with a golf pro about what to do about his on-again, off-again performance on the links. The pro told him to take two weeks off and then quit.