by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Boca Raton, Fla.
November 11, 2001
ON VETERANS' DAY, AN OLD VET HAS ADVICE ON NEW WAR
BOCA RATON, Fla., Nov. 11, 2001 -- God willing, or at least if He remembers Normandy, my Dad will celebrate another Veterans' Day. Nowadays as the Parkinson's continues its capricious attack, words come in short, breathless spurts. Sentences are as tough to get as pouring frozen honey from a thimble.
"Forget Bin Laden," come the words of Louis Scheinbaum. You can almost see the thoughts forming, flickering in now mostly blind eyes, forming each word while rubbing his larynx with a trembling hand.
He celebrated his 83rd birthday last week, and the Jewish War Veterans will bring their Color Guard to Menorah Nursing Home here in Boca Raton to honor the handful of veterans. Rhoda, his wife of 55 years, who spent World War II working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, will be at his side, as she is most of every daylight visiting hour, seven days a week.
"Bomb his men. Bomb supply routes. Attack everyone connected with Taliban. Stop saying his name," said the decorated combat infantryman, who was tapped as a combat medic (when a superior learned he had earned a Boy Scout First Aid merit badge).
The gist of Dad's reasoning is that one makes more of a hero out of Osmana Bin Laden by talking about him. Cut off all the support lines and chain of command beneath him, and the focus of his supporters turns to sheer survival, rather than idol worship.
Although there are many days when Dad can't tell you which of the bland pureed foods he had for breakfast, or where his room is, often he still listens to television and radio. Until neurological deterioration took his eyesight last summer, he'd also make out headlines from the Large Print Edition of the New York Times.
When my youngest son, his grandson, enlisted in the Army last Spring a year after graduating from college, Dad suggested, "Gabe, don't volunteer for anything. Don't try to do anything beyond your level of training unless told to do so."
When I asked him about Grandpa's advise on a recent visit to an Army outpost which shall go unnamed, he smiled: "I remember everything Grandpa said. Then I did the opposite. I volunteered for every possible extra duty, community assignment, physical fitness competition, sporting event, leadership guide positions - whatever. For the first time in my life I feel everything I do every day impacts the safety of my family and friends, and I suppose the whole nation."
Within 48 hours of the Sept. 11 massacres I had hoped that Dad, with the perspective of two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, Presidential Citation, French Legion of Honor and so forth, would have some deep, wise, poignant answer to my long list of whys.
My Mom said that Lou had been listening the audio of the "talking heads" on television from former foreign policy gurus Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brezinski, to politicians such as U.S. Senators Bob Graham and Trent Lott.
The one and only line Dad spoke was a sarcastic, "Everyone is an armchair general!"
A few days later as the magnitude of the 19-plus terror cadre's planning and brazen strategy became known I asked him just generally what he thought. What predictions? What guidance?
"I only know one thing," he sputtered slowly.
"...Heads...are...going..to ...roll...at the F-B-I." A few years earlier, Lou had been called to the stage to pin his oldest grandson's second lieutenant's bar on his collar. As my older son rose to captain in the 82nd Airborne, finally got through Ranger School, and lead patrols through Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with a United Nations force, his grandfather was losing his fight with Parkinson's Disease.
Starting his third year in the nursing home, the old warrior still talks about going home and "getting out of prison." He jokes about the "old folks" who are "worse off than me."
It's now tougher to articulate the Normandy Invasion stories. The handful of fellow veterans wracked by age, disease, and woefully inadequate financial and medical support from our nation's Veterans Administration, never talk of their heroism.
This Veteran's Day, one wonders whether the White House would do well to forget the AMI anthrax building, a long mortar shot away, and spend a little time listening to the oldtimers at Menorah.
Former UPI Newsman Mark Scheinbaum is chief investment stratgegist for Kaplan & Co. Securities, member Boston Stock Exchange.