Sunday, May 24, 2009
My Generation's War
My father used to call World War II his war. He also fought in Korea but staunchly maintained it was a police action and not a war. He said the same thing about Vietnam. But to those of my generation that fought in it or against it Vietnam was the war; our war like it or not. I visited the wall. I makes me cry. Even photos of it to this day make me cry. I have never dared to pick out specific names.
The Vietnam War is so tied up with so many things like Watergate, and abuse of power. Leaders that would never take responsibility for enlarging it or ending it. That time ended the faith of a generation in our elected officials to do what was right.
I re-watched Frost/Nixon yesterday. It is a Netflix selection I got on Thursday and watched once then. I think for anyone that lived in Washington, DC during Watergate it is a very heavy film. Ron Howard made it because he thought GW Bush was abusing the presidency as Richard Nixon had; considering himself above the law. That for the president to "break the law" was not breaking the law. I guess I am one of those naive people that think our leaders ought to adhere to the law even more rigidly than those laws are made for.
But on this Memorial Day the part of the film which hit the hardest was the small section about Vietnam and the "carpet bombing" of Cambodian citizens. Memorial Day is suppose to be about honoring our soldiers not just those in the wars we are involved in now but all the wars of our past. I had not remembered that almost 21,000 of our young men died in Vietnam. And because of advances in medical field hospitals and evacuations learned in Korea a greater percentage of the wounded survived than in World War II. They survived to live in wheel chairs and with artificial limbs and to give us a new awareness of closed brain trauma and post traumatic stress syndrome.
My neighbor today fought in Vietnam and he was exposed to Agent Orange. That exposure is now killing him with a rare and deadly form of cancer. How many others have died since that war ended as an indirect or direct result of their service. Their names are not counted in that 21,000. Their names are not on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. though one family just petitioned and won to get their son's name added to the wall though he died 25 years after we retreated. And there are no names of all the civilians killed because of an executive decision to "Carpet Bomb" villages. We turned an entire area of the world against us.
I think war was more noble during the time of Alexander the Great. Then leaders sat on white chargers and led their men into battle, and faced death with them. They did not sit at home safely enthroned in the Oval office and "regret" the necessity of having to send our youth to war.
Tell me please why is war necessary.