December 13, 2005

Coming Home And The Last Goodbye

Every once in a while, you come across something so haunting, so deep and so stiring that it sticks in your mind like nothing else. This is such a story. I received an e-mail from a really good, though new, friend, Rick who writes The Real Ugly American. Rick asked me to share his post with all of my readers, and after looking at the post, I could not but comply.

There are those today who still think of the Vietnam Veterans as "terrorists" who leveled villiges reminiscent of the actions of Jenghis Kahn, who call our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan "idiots" and "mercenary's." That dear friends is a lie. Our troops are heros, proud and bloodied, but unbent. Heros all whose actions over the decades from The Battle of New Orleans through the assault on Fallujah have kept us free, and wrested freedom for others.

Rick's piece opens with an intro from Docski, a member of a vets forum:

Some here would call them idiots. Some would make fun of them for risking their lives for $75 a month in combat pay. I call them some of the bravest and finest people I have ever known. Hearts of Vikings.

Tycz and I patroled together on the Teams for 4 or 5 months. Doc Miller was my replacement. We buried them this past spring in DC.

and from the article that the above was an intro to:
Four dead men. One already is smoldering. The elephant grass is on fire. Three other Marines are still alive for now, but if the North Vietnamese Army doesn't get them, the fires surely will.

It is late morning, May 10, 1967, on Hill 665 northwest of Khe Sanh. A Marine reconnaissance patrol named Breaker is in trouble...

Read the whole thing, you will really miss something of merit if you don't.

Posted by GM Roper at December 13, 2005 12:30 PM | TrackBack

Yes, GM, they were terrorists... to the likes of traitors like John Kerry and Jane Fonda.

To the rest of us, they will always be heroes. Heroes who served their country in a way most people will never understand, even in their worst nightmares.

Heroes who were given short shrift by people who, thanks to warriors like them, were and are able to condemn those who fought and fight for their freedom to give that short shrift.

The loss of such young men is enough to make you cry. The verbal desecration of those young men's sacrifices by traitors is enough to make you sick.

Posted by Seth at December 13, 2005 10:25 PM

Dear GM,
I came here from the comment section of the article. It is truly an article which leaves me speeless.

I am so proud of these brave men, I thank God for them. I imagine it would be possible to make a movie out of each hour of each day of each war and there still would not be a true understanding of the pain, glory, dedication, devastation, fear, accomplishment, honor, and I could go on.

That is just is just it. I could go on and never capture the true essense of each person's experience and what that means to them and our freedom.

Thank you, guys, for your service, and welcome home.

Posted by Rosemary at December 14, 2005 06:36 AM

GM, thanks for posting this story...

Posted by civil truth at December 14, 2005 11:36 AM

The story you linked to gave me goosebumps and made me cry. Thank you for posting this.

Posted by Always On Watch at December 14, 2005 01:42 PM

The post is kind of strange to me. I mean really, isn't it kind of pathetic to claim that the people in the antiwar movement blame the troops on the ground for the decisions to go to war? I thought we in the antiwar camp blamed the politicians in the Republican and Demcratic Parties for those decisions and the generals, executives in the military industrial complex, etc. Where do you find the analysis saying that the grunts are responsible for the war?

Posted by steve at December 16, 2005 07:07 PM

Steve, I would gather by your comments that you were neither a Vietnam veteran nor have actually laced up a pair of combat boots for your country.

STOP. I know that wearing the uniform of our Armed Services is hardly the complete test of patriotism nor some kind of assurance of sainthood. With that out of the way, we move on.

My personal experiences, in my own country, following service in Vietnam were awful. Numbers of people, and not just long-haired and generally dirty "students", said really awful things to me. I WAS a grunt in Vietnam. The remarks were directed at me personally.

The nitwits that said what they said had absolutely NO idea of what they were talking about. In 13 months in Vietnam, almost all of it in the "bush", I only saw reporters once. They came in when they heard a battle was in the offing...but left very quickly when real danger seemed likely. They returned two days later, when the battle (a serious of vicious firefights) were over and actually attempted through their cameras and "live" reporting (on film in those days..and thus, not "live") to make it appear that the battle was still in progress. They had, and have, my contempt.

The units I served with did not commit war crimes, engage in dope, nor do anything that was illegal. We fought and some died and some were wounded..though all were wounded psychologically.

What is worse, is that our fellow citizens were either mute or said awful things to us when we came home. Thus, in many ways, we NEVER came "home". Some in recents times have attempted to make amends. Most have not. Few actually know very much about war or warriors.

So, Steve, while you may not blame the troops...others very often do.

Most "anti-war" types know very little about war...if anything. I have attempted to engage some on specific facts and all I ever get back in louder and louder screeching of "bumper sticker" type replies. They cannot, or will not, answer specific questions. Having spent nearly half my life on active duty in military service, I have studied war. I, and most of my peers, were about war prevention. Prevention of war is mostly about being prepared to wage it. Sadly, most of the world does not respect "good intentions".

Here's a simple quiz: If three thugs kick the door in of your two story house (you and your family are upstairs), do you:

a) ask your wife to go downstairs and make sandwiches for the thugs while you wake your children and instruct them to assist the thugs in carrying out all the worldly goods that are in the house...and you go find your guitar so you can sing "We are the children".

b) tell your wife to call 911, while you get your shotgun.

End of the quiz.

Posted by tad at December 18, 2005 12:13 PM

"Numbers of people, and not just long-haired and generally dirty "students", said really awful things to me. I WAS a grunt in Vietnam. The remarks were directed at me personally."

Doubtful, on two grounds. 1) The military commissioned a number of well known polls that say otherwise about the vets' post-Vietnam experience.
if what you claim were the general case the antiwar movement couldn't have attracted the large numbers of GIs in the GI Coffeshouse movement, not to mention at the demos.
When ya read the critiques of antiwar activists, no different from today, they are directed at the leaders of the war, the people who actually make policy.

"So, Steve, while you may not blame the troops...others very often do."

I've heard this mantra before, but then when I ask for evidence, there's none to be found, just claims of victimization--in the world's most militarized country no less!

Your quiz is odd, I didn't know that Vietnam was about to rob the United States of its wife and possessions in the 60's. Nor did I see Sodom Whosane in that way and it turns out that was accurate too as even Bush admits. Just a lot of wasted dollars and lives.

Posted by steve at December 20, 2005 09:24 PM

steve, don't forget that people spit on the soldiers returning home--not the leaders. In fact, Viet Nam vets hid the fact of their service for at least 15-20 years, to avoid stigmas and discrimination against them.

Posted by Woody at December 21, 2005 08:26 AM

Woody, you guys say that, but it's odd there's no evidence whatsoever of it happening. In fact, the only photographic evidence of a Vietnam Vet being spat at is of one who was at an antiwar protest being spat at by prowar spectators.

Spit debunked

History repeats itself

Posted by steve at December 21, 2005 11:27 AM

steve, spit or no spit, I remember very clearly the hostile receptions and treatment that the returning Viet Nam vets received from radical demostrators. One article that you linked said that 90% of the returning vets received a friendly return. That means that 10% didn't, which is an extremely high number under those circumstances. It was years that no one would admit to having fought in that war because of the unjust stigma placed on them by the left--often referring to them as mentally deranged.

Posted by Woody at December 21, 2005 01:06 PM

Woody, the evidence from that period shows that the greatest hostility toward the vets came from WW2 vets actually.
The number 10% is not that terribly high actually. For one, it is radically different from the impression people like Tad give that this was a widespread impression or problem. And it compares roughly with similar sentiments among WW2 vets, especially in terms of their frustration with employment issues when they returned.
The image of mental derangement of Vietnam Vets has actually long been challenged by the left and Lembcke's book is but one of such examples. Alex Cockburn has also done a bunch of articles confronting such mythology, as has Paul Starr, the medical sociologist.

Posted by steve at December 21, 2005 02:00 PM

Well, since I am most probably not a "deranged" veteran, as stated in Steve's last posting, then I am wondering how Steve can say that what I've stated as fact that occured to me is.."doubtful"?

Maybe a re-reading of my comments might be in order. I am not speaking for all veterans nor even a majority, but I do know how I and a number of Vietnam veterans were treated by our fellow citizens.

For a number of decades, I failed to see or hear anyone say much in support of military personnel. As the years went by, it lessened.

In the last few years, I have personally, encountered people that have stated to me that they wish they hadn't "worked" the system to avoid service. There is a sense of shame that they let others go while they hid.

Note: That last line is bound to incite some. However, a serious study of world history, sociology, psychology, anthropology and just paying attention to the peoples of the world will get one a better understanding about conflict and "why" we cannot just throw our swords down and grip only our plowshares. The world is dangerous. Evil men will come for the weak and the silly.

BTW, I had already served seven years as an enlisted Marine BEFORE mid 1965. I had been honorably discharged and was working and going to college. In mid 1966, I requested to go back on active duty. By 1 November 66, I was in an infantry company on Vietnam. I stayed in the Corps and headed again to RVN in 1970.

Certainly no hero, I, I do have bit more knowledge about things military than more citizens...and that, I think isn't a good thing. More need to know about the world. I am both angered and saddened by the very thin knowledge of most citizens, included most academics who are happy to talk alot, but most of what they say is wrong.

How do I know, because I put thirty two years the Marines, all 'round the world and am now an academic.

I thought the "quiz" was really pretty easy to understand. If one is "anti-war", then they are anti-violence. War is defending one's self, writ large.

Thus, if you're anti-war, then you are either defenseless, or you proverbially ride of the backs of others to defend you, all the while demeaning what they do in your behalf.

Is that clearer?

Posted by tad at December 22, 2005 12:10 AM

"In the last few years, I have personally, encountered people that have stated to me that they wish they hadn't "worked" the system to avoid service. There is a sense of shame that they let others go while they hid."

My experience has been the opposite, I've met many Vietnam vets who regret that they went to Vietnam, because they didn't think they should have been placed there and the policymakers were wrong about the need to have a war there in the first place. And most people who avoided service in the 60's or 70's don't regret their avoiding service as much as that anyone had to go. It's a pity the labor movement didn't more actively encourage more working class youth to fight the draft. I remember that George Meany said once that his biggest mistake was to support the Vietnam War.
The 'hid' issue is a non-sequitor really. I mean if they had gone to Vietnam and fought on the side of the Vietminh, then they would have fulfilled your action jackson requirements and still be subjected to your anger. And I wonder if your anger is directed at all who avoided service or only those who avoided service *and* opposed the war?

"More need to know about the world. I am both angered and saddened by the very thin knowledge of most citizens, included most academics who are happy to talk alot, but most of what they say is wrong."

I never served a day in the army, but I've travelled on my own through about a dozen countries in Asia and am fluent in Chinese. How much does one need to do before they have knowledge enough in any event?

"I thought the "quiz" was really pretty easy to understand. If one is "anti-war", then they are anti-violence. War is defending one's self, writ large."

Not at all, look at the folks who went and fought in the Lincoln Brigade for starters. I have no issue with battles for independence from below, violent or not. One can be antiwar and consistently support the right to self-defense. What you ask us to believe is that if our leaders say they are sending armies half way across the world in self-defense, it must be true, no small tautology there.

Posted by steve at December 22, 2005 12:34 AM

Steve, perhaps you believe the way you do because of this

I'm always curious about why you support someone (Lembeck?) who wrote about a supposed "lack of evidence" and totally discount all those who give personal evidence. Are they all liars Steve? Or, perhaps you and your soulmates are just plain ole mistaken?

Posted by GM Roper at December 22, 2005 08:44 AM

GM, I think it's rather clear from the book. The 'personal evidence' usually is a familiar story line [think of Jesse Ventura's war stories for example] trotted out no different than those used to 'prove' that 'repressed memories' of satanic ritual abuse are 'true'. I mean ya have to wonder when you look at the recent claims about soldiers returning from Iraq and being 'abused' by protestors. When looking for evidence, it then becomes, conveniently, impossible to find. And, of course, once challenged, those who claim widespread incidence of abuse of returning vets tend to back down or move on to other topics.
In a highly militarised country like the US, it would be very unusual if the treatment of vets by the population was bad. That such a thing would escape a Spiro Agnew or J Edgar Hoover is likewise hard to believe.
On the other hand, unemployment faced by vets or struggles for health care, physical and mental, is not hard to believe and entirely documentable. The former, of course, was a nationwide problem in the 70's, hardly something that only vets faced.

Posted by steve at December 22, 2005 09:23 AM

Gosh, we've moved on to the Spanish Civil War! Well, please recall for us just why the members of the Lincoln Brigade (and other foreign idealists) bailed out in their support of the Republican forces BEFORE the war was over. I shall not prompt.

In my earlier comments, I was speaking primarily for myself and for those few actual events I personally observed. I do not speak for all veterans nor even a small slice.

I do recall a demonstration at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. The demonstrators were hurling verbal abuse at soldiers and very junior officers. I was studying Greek and was hardly in some sinister plot to rule the world. Yet, there were people screaming obscenaties at us. None, I would add, had any relationship to the actual combat I had seen in RVN.

Note: This one event is just ONE. I have many more.

What Oliver Stone showed us in his movie "Platoon" was nothing, repeat, nothing like my experience, and I was in a Marine infantry platoon myself. That some awful things happened in some units in RVN was true. Did it happen everywhere? No.

The deal, again, is that very many people had, and have, no real understanding of modern war. We have all seen that WW II is replayed and replayed. Why? It was the, to quote Studs Turkel, "good war". The reality is that there were plenty of war crimes committed by the Allies also. However, war is a very awful business and one doesn't have much time to review the fine points of the Geneva Conventions and The Rules of Land Warfare, et al.

Since the ability of nuclear weaponry and ICBMs (from underwater, from land and from aircraft..the latter not actually ICBMs) no wars have been declared. There is a reason for that.

Ultimately, we must keep an eye on the world. Bad things have been made to happen. Can evil men come at us again? If yes, ought we be prepared? If yes, should we recruit good folks to defend us? If yes, where? How can we get good folks for our Armed Forces if citizens do not honor that service?

While many do honor the service of our military personnel, the reality is that many do not. Climb into a uniform and go to the campuses of many colleges and universities and see what sort of reception you get. Talk to (some, not all) "bright" students and hear the half-truths and under-informed babble that they've been fed by their instructors.

Or don't.

How 'bout this for an idea, read Rudyard Kipling's "Tommy".

Posted by tad at December 22, 2005 11:33 AM

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