Image via WikipediaThey march every year. No one asked if they wanted to go, but a few volunteered. They served in fire basis that were islands in a sea of enemies. They "humped the boonies" searching for an enemy that, all to often, expected them. They crawled into tunnels to rout them out. They swooped into LZs chasing ghosts.
Some where in the neighborhood of 50,000 died with out a thank you. The survivor's stories are relegated to the history channel, but WW II vets still dwarf their sacrifices. After all this time they are still the lost soldiers. Their are still questions about their honor.
I am nearly 52 and I can remember night after night of war coverage. I remember the protests and the riots. In those days I wanted those boys to come home. I believed that their sacrifice was too great for such a small gain. The war ended the year my oldest brother got his draft card. He was part of the lottery. Now we think of the lottery as a dream of riches. Then it was a trip to basic for 10 weeks and a plane ride you didn't want to end.
When it did end, you were a walking corpse until you learned how to survive. A lot didn't get the chance to learn. Their names are etched on a black wall with so many others who died there. Some died terrible deaths that were witnessed by their buddies. Those men were haunted by those memories for years. Some are still haunted.
A fiend of mine was there. I didn't meet him until after the war. He was a man of tremendous character who didn't last long in country. He was unfortunate enough to step on a land mine. During the war some soldiers might have thought that he was lucky, because he got out with only a few fingers missing and surgeons were able to save his legs, so that he could walk. In a weird way I found myself thinking that he was lucky too, but now I know that he wasn't lucky. Vietnam had left physical and psychological scars and if stepping on a land mine is the lucky way to end your service, then there was no lucky way to end it.
We owe a great and terrible debt to Vietnam Veterans. They fought in a war that didn't exist. They served and died in a Police Action. It sound so tame. Almost like they spent their days writing speeding tickets and keeping peace at The State Fair. We know now that a war is a war. It took the loss of many of their lives to come to the realization. Those deaths taught us that life was very precious. Their service taught us that war is terrible. The debt we owe them is not just for their service. Though it is reason enough. The debt is for teaching us not to send our troops into harms way without standing behind them. We learned that soldiers are not to blame for wars and we learned not to go to war unless it is the last resort.
Sunday (here in Syracuse) the "Watch Fire" will be lit for all the soldiers that didn't come home. The dead and the Mia's, but the men lighting it should be remembered too. We should all say thank you to them for facing the horror of war, so that we didn't have to. To all of them a say thank you. It's not enough. Neither is welcome home. Please thank them and welcome them home also. For they have had the longest road home.
When you see them march in your town, let them know that you thank them too. If they ride through on Harley's it is because they have pledged that every soldier will be welcomed back. Never again will they allow a soldier to return, dead or alive without a friendly welcoming. They honor us by remaining in this country. A country that didn't meet them with cheers.
Finally, to all of them, "I say God Bless you"
To Chris and Chris and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans I say, "We are honored to know that you walk among us."
There are still many that we pray for. Gods speed and be safe