Monday, May 29, 2006

On Memorial Day

I never was in the military.

My father didn't fight in World War II.

I was eligible for service in the last year of the draft during Vietnam. I drew a high number. I suppose I would have gone had I drawn a low number, as I usually did as I was told in those days.

Still, I was opposed to the war. I'd argue with one of my high school friends about it, telling him it was a civil war between North and South Vietnam. None of our business. He subscribed to the "Domino Theory." The dominoes never fell

My father was rejected for the service, I was told. He had horrible eyesight. When I was a kid, I asked him once if he was "in the war." He said no, and I got the impression it wasn't a topic to be pursued. It wasn't until after he passed away, almost 5 years ago now, that my mother told me he was, maybe she used the word "ashamed," he had not gone to war, though it was no fault of his own, so far as I knew. He and my mother knew men who did serve and didn't come home.


Band of Brothers is on the History Channel today.
Saving Private Ryan was on one of the Turner stations last night.
Baghdad ER, an HBO documentary in which a chaplain declares the current Iraq war to be "senseless," has been on.
Most of us get our ideas about war this way.
The first movie I saw in a theater with my dad was The Guns of Navaronne, starring Gregory Peck.
I don't expect to see Coming Home or Platoon or Hearts and Minds on the TV today.


Our congressman, Ron Paul, in one of his latest missives, talks about the "unintended consequences" of our American intervention in Aghanistan and Iraq. We have kicked the Sunnis from power in both of those countries, thereby helping Shia-controlled Iran, which is attempting to enrich its uranium to make The Bomb, and which doesn't particularly care for the USA.

And we get to pay $5 billion a week for all this.

What in the hell are we doing?

A high-ranking business executive at a Fortune 500 company told me a couple years ago what he thought was going on. The executive is a patriot, a Vietnam veteran who survived the shooting down of the Marine helicopter he piloted. He travels the world now, as a businessman. I've wondered if maybe he helps the CIA in his travels. Maybe I have an overactive imagination.

He said he "thought" the planners and thinkers of our government are worried about the possible fall, someday, of the Saudi royal family. In other words, it's about the oil.

I believe him. But I guess we can't come out and say this. Why? Because it's not true? Or we don't want to sound crass?

But I can accept that the war is about "resources" better than I can accept that it's about freedom and democracy because, frankly, there are far too many despots ruling far too many people for us to take them all on.

And we need to keep running our air conditioners and automobiles and Lawn Boys.

A few days ago, I dined with an Israeli who now lives in the U.S. He served in the Israeli Army in the 1967 and 1973 wars. He noted that the American KIA numbers in Iraq thus far are still only about half of what they were in a single battle, Iwo Jima, during World War II. I looked it up. He was right.


Last night, I read this story in the New York Times Magazine about a National Guardsman's experience in Iraq.

He's back home in Pennsvylvania now, but could go back. He's willing to do it. After all, he said, he signed a contract.

Remarkably, he is quite candid about the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder that he suffers. He's not seeking sympathy. His best friend died over there. And his best friend turned down a medical waiver to go simply because his best friend was going, so by God was going to go too.

I hope it's all worth it.

Whether you think it is or isn't, you may want to send something to a soldier over there, just to let him (or her) know that you haven't forgotten them.

Happy Memorial Day.

1 comment:

Duardo said...


...As you know, I served my stint in the US Navy during the tail-end of the Vietnam War. They say it was Hell. I enver did find iut firsthand, as I was shipped-off to Hawaii for two years, which was tough because all the ladies I met wanted to see Don Ho, and how many of that can you stand? Later, I ended my military career at the Sub base in San Diego, where, as a Medic, I took to parading young ladies I'd meet at the USO through our ship's clinic and impress them by having them take to the O.R. table. I know, I know, everybody's got war stories. But my recollections of the so-called harsh VietWar were all upbeat. I wish I could do it again, in fact.