Throughout my life of lumps, every time I might have felt a twinge of self-pity, I found myself in the company of people a lot worse off than I, who faced their conditions with courage and humor. Those who came the closest to winkin’-out like burnt stars had the best aphorisms to express their attitudes: “Still on the sunshine side of the grass! Woohoo!” and “Ain’t nobody pattin’ me on the face with a shovel today, dude!”

My old comrade, G.K. Shirpa, has sorta’ made it his crusade to point out — gently if possible, forcefully if not — why complaining, dejected, demoralized soldiers have nothin’ to mutter about. He’s been fighting communists and other vermin since he was a boy in the mid 1940s. He’ll see some whole, healthy pup cryin’ in his beer, grab him by the stackin’ swivel, haul him upright and then poke him in the chest a coupla’ times — hard, with a steely finger.