Monday, November 12, 2007
One Veteran's story~
My husband was twenty-four in the spring of 1967 when the Army drafted him during the Vietnam years.
Finished with grad school, he was teaching in Connecticut, and had plans to marry in three months. Not to me; I was a sophomore in high school then.
Deciding that he'd rather be the one giving the orders than taking them, he enlisted in the Marines and made plans to go to Officer Candidate School.
He told his fiancée what he'd done, and gave her the option of postponing the wedding, knowing he could be killed or maimed. They married as planned. Their son was born at Camp Le Jeune when his tour in Nam was complete.
The thirteen months he spent in the jungles are not something he's said much about. I've seen his medals. I've seen a Vietnam flag he pulled from somewhere. I've read letters from superiors praising the job he did.
But I know little. It was hot. He made sure his men were taken care of. He made decisions for the greater good. He gave orders that impacted lives. He saw his men get killed. He wrote letters to parents back home.
The rest he's buried deep inside somewhere. I don't know if he thinks of it much, but he winces at the whir of helicopters overhead, recoils sharply at the sound of gunfire and is moved to tears watching war movies.
"Did any of your men commit the atrocities we heard so much of," I asked once, naively and perhaps in retrospect, thoughtlessly.
"No." he says simply.
"How do you know?"
"Because I was with them," he tells me, the implication clear.
He didn't ask to fight in that war, but when he was drafted he gave more than was asked by enlisting and becoming an officer, pretty much insuring that he'd be in the thick of things. And he was.
As a veteran, what does he want? Absolutely nothing . . . except maybe acknowledgment that he did what he was trained to do to the best of his ability. He followed orders, and in turn gave them. He served his country as required.
He was spit on in San Francisco Air Port when he returned from Vietnam.
He cried at the memorial in Washington, DC.
It was war, and what was it good for? Absolutely nothing!
Memorial Day Tears
When the soldiers came home from Vietnam, there were no parades, no celebrations. So they built the Vietnam Memorial for themselves. ~William Westmoreland