Having spent almost a decade while an Air Force pilot stationed at SAC bases during the Cold War (which we won by-the-way) where the mission was to deter a surprise nuclear attack on our country, I was saddened by the events this weekend at "Woodstock 99."
Griffiss AFB, near Rome, NY used to be one of SAC's shining sentinels where the mission was to support the "Alert" force, comprised of typically six B-52 bomber crews, and six KC-135 tanker crews that resided in a "mole hole" underground alert facility at the end of the runway, just a few steps from their "loaded and cocked" aircraft. Their task was to be ready, 24 hours a day to be airborne within minutes of notification that a hostile missile attack had begun. Crews, such as mine typically spent 7 days on rotational alert duty out of every 21 day period. When not on alert duty, quartered in the Spartan "mole hole" our job was to fly training missions, where we practiced our flight skills. Each year, a typical tanker crew would also spend from 30 to 120 days deployed to remote facilities world-wide, to support units which had no permanent aircrews. The missions flown from these locations were usually considered "operational" missions, that dealt with deploying and supporting forces which rubbed noses with "the threat." These locations typically included Iceland, Alaska, England, Saudi Arabia, and Southeast Asia/Pacific locations (in my case) like Thailand, Japan, and Guam.
To see that real estate (the former Griffiss AFB) defiled as it was, with filthy, drug abusing, people wandering about in mindless mobs burning and trashing the areas we kept shining seems symbolic of the political and social climate we now have in this remarkable country we stood ready to defend with our lives.
An "MTV" interview with one of the "Woodstock 99" revelers was telling. "This is great man!" "It's about love and peace...I mean, like this used to be an air force base man...where we killed people...I don't understand how people could do that...I mean like, kill people for peace...Now look at it!"
"Now look at it" is right. This hallowed ground on which we sacrificed our time and talents to defend our country had become host to an orgy of drug using, drunk, naked, tattooed and pierced, filthy people listening to screaming "music" with unintelligible or anarchic lyrics while having public sex with strangers in the filth and debris around portable toilets. They ended the "love fest" by burning and looting the area and then getting into cars to wander back to their homes which I, and thousands of military people like me, through our service, assured would exist just a few years ago.
As the young man in the interview indicated, it represents a symbolic victory for the people, who during my years of service represented a minuscule, but very well exposed and media lionized minority of Americans. The original Woodstock was a gathering of odd hippies who were the pioneers of the liberal drug and AIDS culture: an anathema to the existing cultural norm. They came from isolated backgrounds not represented in the vastly more prevalent clean cut "American Bandstand" youth culture. Though the media iconized and depicted these hippies as mainstream American culture, they were not. As with the election of Bill Clinton, and his defiling of the White House, this mob's takeover of a former SAC base for such desecration is indeed symbolic of some foreboding changes in this country. What we see now in the 1999 version of Woodstock is far more indicative of our youth culture than was the case with the original. These kids really do come from typical Americana. While we won a Cold War, a culture war was lost.