Monday, September 23, 2013

On being a soldier

Having a beer to relax and forget, if only for a moment in war

Whether a person is in a war or not, those of the past and those of the present, emotions about war always run high, either for or against it. Do you want to know, first hand, how those who were in it feel, ask them.  The responses, like the emotions, will vary greatly from, 'I'm trying to forget, I'm not talking about it anymore, or I just cannot explain it."  The last one if very prominent because most military people will tell you: "Unless you were there, you cannot understand it all."  This response is probably the truest of all.  The biggest reason those who served in a war will not talk to civilians about it. They simply cannot understand it. 

"I'll be the first to admit that in Nam, probably in any war, events that would seem strange or bizarre back in The World, were just viewed as normal. Events you just cannot explain to anyone who hasn't lived through the chaos of war because they'd never understand. You had to be a witness to those events to get the full grasp of their meaning." (quote from my book: A Date With Vietnam.

The thing is; no one wants to fight a war, no one wants to kill people, (sometimes in a slaughter), no one is used to, brought up to, or even really trained well to, just get used to what they see in a war.  Yes, some are more adept at it than others, but no one, no matter their circumstances, is prepared to see their buddies and best friends killed in front of them either. 

But should we all 'forget' any wars simply because they are 'distasteful'?  Well show me a 'tasteful' war and I will say: "Sure, let's forget all the rest of them."  But I know there never has been nor ever will be a 'tasteful' war.  Each year we commemorate the Revolutionary War, the one fought for America's independence.  I'm sure those who fought that one would never have wanted us to forget that lives were lost and lives were changed forever and people died for it.  In ALL wars, people die and they die in large masses.  As the war machines have improved, more and more people die in huge masses, on both sides.  I would never tell the loved ones of someone killed in a war: "Well, just forget it."  That would be crass and highly rude. 

We tend to forget there is no 'faceless enemy' no matter what war you think of.  We forget that even the perceived enemy comes from a family and has loved ones too.  Even the enemy's life is changed forever.  We are friends with Japan, yet America used a weapon of such mass destruction on that country so terrible that it not only changed lives, it literally changed landscapes, forever.  

Each generation goes to war hoping their children never will have to.  We forget the pettiness of governments to ever be able to get along, so each generation must do the bidding of those in power, to fight a war in a country for whatever stupid reason, and for land that the military person will never control.  They fight it for someone else. Yes, governments want us to believe it is for 'our freedom' but is it really?  Doubtful. 

I say: "Do not ever forget those who fought the wars."  Protest, if need be, for veterans to not be homeless, to not get bad care from a VA hospital or outpatient service.  You know a veteran?  Be kind to them, show kindness, and remember: When fighting for their rights, you fight for your own as well.  You do not have to ask them to describe war, it's difficult even for the veteran to understand it all, but just be kind and make governments stop treating them, and us all, like we do not exist.  A veteran should not be homeless from ailments caused by a war they showed up to fight, for an ungrateful government that would like to toss them out like yesterday' trash.  Veterans showed up when called, the government needs to do the same, to step up to the plate for them.  Hell. America cannot even step up to the plate for fire fighters, police people, or emergency workers who helped in 9/11.  This attitude Must Stop!

My latest book tries to explain why and how anyone would fight a war.  I cannot do all veterans justice because it is complicated, indeed.  But I do my best.  I hope I succeeded in some small way.

Available right now on: Kindle