Monday, October 15, 2012

All Gave Some; Some Gave All

I wanted to post this so that it could be seen by others. The thoughts below are those of my father's. I hope you enjoy them.

 It was June 1965 and I was graduating from high school.  I was on my way to college at the College of the Holy Cross.  My entire future was in front of me.  I did not have a good handle on my future aspirations other than wanting to help my fellow human beings.  I still hung with a dream of becoming a doctor but I would not get that opportunity in my freshman year as the college had only accepted me with the option for pre-med after my freshman year.

In moving in, I met many of my classmates who were engaged in the ROTC program.  I was not convinced that the Vietnam War was a solution for America.  My generation had lived through the assassination of its president in 1963.  My generation had been moved by President Johnson’s “New Society” program as a solution for the divisions that was within our country could be resolved.  But then all resources seemed to be turned towards the war effort.  What had previously been an advisory role in that country had been converted to armed support for the South Vietnamese.  What had previously been a rather innocuous registration in the Selective Service had become a badge of courage or, at least, a badge of identification and tracking of each male 18 years old in America.
Just as suddenly, the nightly news was absorbed with the battle fields of strange sounding names- Saigon, Tet Offensive, Mekong Delta, and leaders of that country- Diem, Ho Chi Ming.  It was described by our leaders as a war against Communism, a civil war, a war that must protect our home land’s security.  All confusing, all complicated engagements.

It was a thousand miles away but involved our every day.  It enlisted voluntarily or involuntarily millions of young American men.  Men who were 18 or older.  Are they men?  They could not even buy a beer. 

And then it really hit home for me when my first classmate would be killed ‘across the pond’ in a rice paddy.  Jay Hurd had graduated with me.  He was a great young guy.  He was in the high school band.  He was destined to be a great father. Then Chuck Whittecomb would die as a tail gunner in a helicopter.  The military would say that the life expectancy for them was less than a half an hour.  What was he thinking?  We would not ski together.  I would not hear him play the drums in a band of young people singing Beatles and Beach Boys. Then Bob DeRoy would die.  I would no longer play baseball with him.  He would never return to home and raise a family. 

 Why them and not me?  We all grew up together.  We all went to school together.  We had all thought about starting a family.  Coming home to buy a house. 

 Even though I served my country, I do not consider myself in the company of these American heroes- who left the security of their loved ones and home, to fight for the freedoms we knew so little about in a country whose language we could not speak, who would die without any loved ones there to protect them as they suffered, who would breath their last breaths with the smell of gunshots hanging over them in this air hanging over their heads.

 These would not be the only ones who would lose their lives to that war- Bob Ahern, who volunteered to serve after law school because it was the right thing to do, who it would be determined would be killed by friendly fire, the only child of his father and mother, and his father and mother would never be the same.  Jim Sawyer whose mother was a registered nurse with mom, who was a year behind me in school.   Dave Hill, whose hearing would have been taken from him after serving in the artillery unit in Vietnam but could no longer hear the train approaching on the train tracks. 

 And the end of the war was one I don’t want to see repeated in Iraq or Afghanistan, we abandoned our allies to be killed, imprisoned, and worse.  We fled their allegiance.  We turned our backs on them.  We said our word is not worth the paper it is printed on. 

 Seeing that wall tears at emotion that I have inside- sadness, self doubt, anger, shame, courage, love, and pride in a generation which has been called lazy, undisciplined, “sex, drugs, rock and roll”.  We challenged authority because we saw so many die without reason.  We envisioned a world that could live in peace.  We knew what commitment was.  These 57,000 never ran.  These stood for our rights to disagree with leadership and died never knowing that even though they did not win in those rice paddies, they won at home.  They may have not received the accolades that today’s soldiers receive but accomplished much because they insured that we, indeed, still have those freedoms. 

 And I wonder how my two boys could have chosen as my classmates and I know that they learned that it is important that we are given opportunities to make a difference each in our lives.  We must have the courage to answer that challenge.  We run the race, we must win the fight. 

 As the country song says, all gave some and some gave all.  Those names represent those whose legacy is that they gave it all and that we all need to know legacy will always burn bright no matter that the monument is back for the conflict that we had within ourselves. 

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