Thursday, March 5, 2009

To be "The Blessing"

The following has been adapted from a letter sent to my brother around three years ago:

Do you ever give it much thought about Vietnam, our generation, and not going? I do, and have for some time now. As I look back, I wish I had gone. I feel guilty for not doing my part as other young guys were doing their part and my part. Not once have I ever been made to feel like I let anyone down or has anyone ever said anything to me about why I did not go and fight. But, still, I feel like I should have. I know that I would not have made a difference in the outcome, but I may have made a difference for some one person, somewhere. Maybe I would not have made it back, but that would not have been worse than for all the others who did not come home.

As I lost my student deferment and was reclassified as I-A, just before the draft lottery (my sophomore year in college), I was nervous about being drafted. I did not want to go. When my birthday was drawn as #343, my thought was that they would be drafting women and children by the time they get to me. I was safe... I guess that it shows the importance of the lottery in my mind, since I still remember my number and watching the proceedings on the dorm TV with the rest of the boys my age, some 36 years ago.

I have had strong opinions about Vietnam and that war and they were not very positive. But, as I have learned over the past few years, much of what formed our opinions about the war was heavily slanted "news" designed to lead us to those negative thoughts. I guess that it is similar to what we see on much of today's media about Iraq. One negative story after another, until you hear a soldier or marine tell his story. When I hear a wounded soldier, from the hospital, missing a leg, say that his goal is to get back over there with his buddies; I am awestruck. They are living an experience that I cannot imagine. It is nice to be blessed but it must feel amazing to be "the blessing".

"War is Hell!" The more I learn about war, the more impressed I am with it's horror and the much more I am humbled by those who go and do the dirty work for the rest of us. We are watching another generation of the greatest young people this country has produced, ever. I think that this is one of the reasons it makes me so mad when I hear someone put down our military. They are unbelievable, awesome people!

I told my Dad, a few years ago, that I wish I had gone to Vietnam. His immediate response, "That would have been awful!" That surprised me as I thought he might have said something like "it would have been hard but I would have been proud" or something similar. His response was based on his experience in war. I will never have much of an idea as to what he went through, saw, and did. After 61 years, he still cannot talk about it without shaking, tearing up and his face going red at the fear of being forced to bring back those old and buried memories. As I would very much like to know his story, I cannot ask.

Now, at my age, I am still safe because of what others have done for me and my freedom. I am at the point in life where I cannot go fight a war, but I can stand up for our troops and appreciate, from the bottom of my heart, what they are doing for us each and every day. My hat goes off, my cheer grows loud and my hands sting from clapping as I try, in a feeble way, to show them just how much I honor them and thank them for their willingness to fight. They volunteer to go to that desert place and stand for freedom. They are willing to do what I was afraid to do. They have made the choice to take the chance of not coming home again; and they do it for you and me.

I write this with the most humble and sincere thanks to the men and women of our armed forces. From my computer, safe at home...

1 comment:

  1. I, for one, agree with Grandpa in saying "that would have been awful" if you'd gone to Vietnam. The scars that soldiers live with for the rest of their lives (if they live at all) are unimaginable and I'm sure nobody fully understands those things unless they've faced them. I definitely would have been proud of you for going, but I am equally proud of you for wishing you'd gone and so relieved that you never had to. God had other plans for you...namely, me. You should never think "coulda shoulda" about the past, but realize God is and was soveriegn in giving you the number you got in the draft. You are no less of a person or a man for not being drawn. I told a lady at church who served in the military for a long time "I think everyone should enlist and serve their country...except those I love and are related to." That basically sums it up.