Good Monday morning readers,
I should have had this post up yesterday, but this topic ought to be discussed often. Veteran's Day was yesterday, the nation holiday where we set aside time to honor all of those, both living and dead, peace or war, who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
As I typed out an email to my grandfather thanking him for his service in Korea, I asked myself: Are veterans today satisfied with their work? In other words, do they think their sacrifice made this country better? Are they proud of what we have become? This quesion would have to be taken on an individual basis, but I have some thoughts. War has changed in style, tactics, conflicting parties and so on, but the basic principles and lessons the human race has failed to learn are still there. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the recuiting stations were packed with volunteers. When American troops were committed to fight against the Communists in Vietnam, young boys were drug kicking and screaming to the battlefield. In 1941, the volunteers knew that everything they had grown to love was now thretened by two ominous foriegn powers. In 1969, folks were scratching their heads wondering why WE had to play policeman in a civil war over 1,000 miles away.
A soldier is a very amazing person. He isn't allowed to tell you what he thinks about the president or the goverment, but when you order him to go shoot another human who's been labled as a threat to national security, he simply replies, "Yes sir." Above all people on Earth, they hate war the most. Why? Well, because they fought it! I was reading an essay called "Okinawa: The Bloodiest Battle of All" by William Manchester. William was a Marine who fought and survived the battle. One of the objectives in his essay was to bring to light the true horror of warfare, as he experienced it. He says in one paragraph, "One of the facts withheld from civilians during World War II was that the Kabar fighting knives, with seven inch blades honed to such precision that you could shave with them, were issued to Marines and we were taught how to use them. You never cut downward. You drove the point of your blade into a man's lowe belley and ripped upward. In the process, you became soaked in another man's gore."
Sickening, isn't it? That's the price of defending freedom, and it hasn't changed at any time in history. When you're pitted against another human being who is just as zealous (in mose cases) for his cause as you are, there is only one rule: kill or be killed. Soldiers may not like the Congress that declares war or the President that orders such-and-so operation to quell whatever little brushfire in that small country way over which way, but they're stuck in it with millions of other men and women, all who are ready to die for us AND each other.
Are they proud?
In my studies I've noticed a significant difference between soldiers and civilians. There are two famous examples in our ouwn heritage. General George S. Patton saw fit to rampage into the U.S.S.R and crush their military power to such an extent, they would never be able to oppose us again. He said, "I could go whip em right now and make it look like it's their fault!" Why? Because he was an avid historian who knew their culture well, and he knew they couldn't be trusted. Did we listen? No. We had just beaten Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan after nearly five years of bloodshed. You'd have to crazy to keep going! Public support would have dropped like a rock, the other nations of the world would have seen us as no different than the Germans or Japanese, and more than likley, our tired military wouldn't have been able to get the job done quick enough, opening up the possibility of resorting to using the new Atom Bomb.
As a result of our noble dicison, the Soviets became a royal pain in the world's butt. The countries they liberated during the WW II never got their freedom back. They became part of the Iron Curtain, and what was left of Germany was divided into Communist East and the free West. The Cold War was on, and it wouldn't end until 1989, the same year I was born. General Patton knew what was coming. All we knew about was what had already happend. We wanted a quick end to the conflict without giving much care to the future result. Patton may have been right.
As that crisis was taking root, another grew up like a weed. North Korea had recieved unexcpeted support from hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops that pour across the Yalu River. MacArther demanded permission to fight back, but the Soviets *sigh* were political allies of the Chinese, and by this point, had also developed the Atom Bomb. To fight against China would have meant risking a fight with Russia. Stalin had Europe in the palm of his hand. If he entered the battle, another World War could have erupted. Despite Chinese agression, a truce ended hostilities on July 27, 1953. The border between the two nations became a neutral zone.
Because of our brave choice, North Korea still exists, using every cent of its money to build up the military, and China is getting stronger by the day. They have a domonating presence on the world market and their staggering population is enough to put rabbit breeding to shame. We were forced to back down in a tough spot at a bad time. MacArther could have been right. We may have been right.
Here we are in 2007. We've been fighting in Iraq for over four years. A nation that used to give up everything to protect its flag is now plagued with those who seek a right to burn it. Is this what out soldiers fought and died for? Is this why they answered the call? I have no answers, but let me say this: never should we hate or despise those who are forced to kill for our sake. They have given up everything so we can have it in their place.
To all veterans who may be readign this. Thank you. From the heart of a young man who is ignorant to all aspects of what it is REALLY like, thank you. You are in my prayers and thoughts.
General MacArther said in his final public appearence, "Old soldiers don't die, they just fade away." I wish that weren't so, and I hope your actions will be forever engrained in the memory of this nation.
The pen is mightier than the sword, eh? I say: power to the pen, but may God Almighty, and American the beautiful, bless those who chose the sword!!!