Michael McBride

Dean Barnett, via Scott Johnson, has commented on, and linked to an essay by Pat Conroy…an essay that speaks directly to Hugh Hewitt’s question posed above…What did you do when America was attacked? Pat Conroy, an accomplished author…The Water is Wide, The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, Beach Music, The Prince of Tides…bares his soul in the essay entitled… “An Honest Confession of an American Coward.”… excerpted from his new nonfiction book, “My Losing Season.”

I am a great Pat Conroy fan. I presented my mother with a signed collection of his works a few years back. I was able to pick them up when I was stationed in Beaufort, SC. My mom loves Pat Conroy.

My mom begged me to read The Great Santini, which I finally did immediately after completing OCS. It is a powerful book on ego and matriculation into manhood. It is also, not accidentally, one of the funniest books ever written. Made more so to me because my dad was also a Marine pilot.

While Conroy’s father, Colonel Donald Conroy, a.k.a. “The Great Santini” was immortalized, both reverently and disdainfully, in the novel of the same name, he was not flying solo as a parental example around the Marine bases of the day. Cherry Point, Beaufort, El Toro, Yuma base housing units were all populated with dozens of Santinis. Each the all-mighty master of the household…wise, somewhat aloof, often harsh, and only rarely of human proportion. They were pilots in a combat age. They might die in training the next day. They may die in combat the next year. They were fearless and feared. They were never fully understood by us mere mortals.

My mom loves Pat Conroy, because she sees our family in each of his novels. She doesn’t have to look hard. I remember her squeal when she discovered that we (five Irish Catholic boys, our youngest brother died at two months) shared three of five first names with the Conroy sons. She loved comparing my father, an accomplished pilot with the same set of disciplinary standards, but lacking the humor of Santini, to Colonel Conroy. She says my dad and he flew together, but this is likely an implanted memory of some fictional wishfulness. Yet both “Santinis” produced similar oldest sons.


Michael McBride

Michael E. McBride retired as a Major from the Marine Corps and blogs at http://www.mysandmen.blogspot.com.

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