As we enjoy this Memorial Day, there are many emotions and thoughts that waft in and out my head. As usual, our little forum provides an outlet for my on-going therapy and I appreciate your indulgence. I suppose my commiseration with other veterans is borne out of concern for my Sons and this country’s growing isolation from the rest of the world.
The fight against worldwide terrorism and the ongoing trouble though out the Middle East will require a greater number of men and women currently committed to the military. As in my own youth, I suspect the government will have to reinstate the draft. My Father, as with many others during WWII rushed to volunteer, because as history has proved the fight was justified. My own service was far less noble. After receiving my draft notice I essentially had four choices; I could enlist with a four year term, I could go quietly for the two years and hope for the best, flee to Canada, or I could go to prison. I resented the forced obligation and was not a model soldier. When I say I’m a veteran, it only describes a classification and should in no way be confused with my Father’s tour of duty. I personally know men who faced death daily in Vietnam. I was mostly AWOL or typing morning reports. History has not been so kind to our involvement in Vietnam and has become the antithesis of previous wars. Never-the-less, 58,229 young people gave up their lives for what was ultimately an act of futility. When surviving vets returned, there were no parades or other such acts of recognition reserved for heroes, mostly just contempt.
If you’ve never visited the Vietnam War Memorial (The Wall), I highly recommend it. Even if you’ve never served in the military, you can’t prepare for the emotional awestruck spirituality that envelops it. I’ve visited it twice. Both times I’d well up and have to choke back tears as I found the names of friends. Designed by an undergraduate art student, I’m always amazed at her insight, as she managed to capture an entire generations feeling. Whether you were a protester or quietly served because your country asked you to, nobody leaves the wall unaffected. It eloquently reminds us of war’s affinity for death.
Maya Ying Lin’s contest entry, No. 1,026 (out of 1,421) took much criticism, and was referred to by many as a tribute to Jane Fonda. She stuck to her guns though, and I think most would agree now, the criticism was unwarranted. Ms. Lin probably said it best; “For death is, in the end, a personal and private matter, and the area contained with this memorial is a quiet place, meant for personal reflection and private reckoning”. So if you can’t make it to the wall today, take a couple of minutes to reflect on how good we have it here. The personal freedom we all take for granted has been paid in full by the blood of patriots.