If you have been visiting this site for a while you've probably already figured out that some of the American Admiralty crew are old enough to have been at Woodstock, but we definitely were not there. No, we were in places like DaNang, or looking for "Crazy Ivans" under the Arctic ice, or staring into the Korean DMZ to see if the commies were going to restart that war that had us crawling under our desks in air raid practices at school when we were little; or watching Ivan across the German DMZ waiting for the starting whistle for World War Three.
No we were not at Woodstock. We did not "tune in, turn on and drop out". We, in far greater numbers than those who were at Woodstock, shouldered our weapons, stood our watches, shadowed, chased, or fought communists around the world. We were the Cold Warriors, the last generation subject to a draft. But our draft wasn't universal service. Plain and simply the rich, the upper middle class, and the solidly middle class with good high school grades were pretty much "deferred" until the draft ended. But we were all the same age and listened to the same music. The Star Spangled Banner guitar solo by Jimi Hendrix may have meant one thing to the hippies at Woodstock but for us it was often a battle hymn.
Only Hendrix could grind his "axe" in such a way as to invoke the sounds of battle in between the refrain of the familiar notes. To those at Woodstock the discordant element reminded them of their discord with the "establishment". His guitar all but speaks the words "rocket's red glare" and then he invokes a sound that we could associate with the emotion experienced with the dreaded words "incoming". To the rich kids who didn't serve in the military, Hendrix was a counter culture hero.
To us the grunts, squids, air dales, jar heads and coasties he was just one damn good guitar player. His music including the Woodstock national anthem we often cranked up on our head sets as we rode toward places that sensible people would be fleeing. In our tanks, ships, bombers, jeeps and trucks Hendrix and others who were at Woodstock could be counted on to drown out engine noise in an entertaining way. Quite frankly we also appreciated the fact that the older senior officers hated these artists.
The "Boomer" generation is split into two factions with the Woodstock people apparently celebrated by the media as the vanguard, though in fact they were a minority. There is one thing that we did have in common across all those lines of class and life experience and that was the music. Both sides were the generation "that invented Rock and Roll".
Yeah we both listened to Hendrix, we, the warriors listened to the music. The slackers and draft dodgers and hippies , the fall out from the "population explosion", listened for a message that Hendrix and the others weren't qualified to formulate. Hendrix is dead and the Woodstockers mostly went on to become CPAs and MBAs and soccer moms, so much for the message. But the music lives on for whole new generations to listen to. The slackers, cowards, hippies, and duty dodgers still think of all of us who served as fools and many of us don't care much for them, but I wanted Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner to speak to whole new generations this morning. If any of the Woodstockers are shocked to learn that we used it as a battle hymn it's just my little way after all these years to say...on behalf of myself and my 34 sacred dead.......bite me, you don't own Hendrix,. We paid in blood for the freedom of speech that made the music and the message possible. As it turns out the message seems to have amounted to little more than let somebody else do the heavy lifting. But the music still rocks and we own a bigger piece of it than you'll ever know.
Since 9/11 we have been watching the same thing evolving in new generations. The nation is at war. Thousands of American civilians died in the twin towers. Many more attempts would be made on our own shores but stopped short while thousands of American youths and not so young went off to the far corners of the earth to kick in doors where the enemy lives. Only a little more than 1% of the population is off at war, the rest of us just went to the mall. What , besides the music, do these new generations have in common? Meanwhile back in what we used to call "the real world" nearly 100 million people expect to receive some sort of government assistance. To pay the bill Congress has actively sought to reduce earned military pensions and medical benefits. It is time to ask....when will everyone be expected to pull their own oar?