Democrats & Liberals Archives

Honoring our Brothers in Arms

I have my own opinions about Vietnam. Having spent two years in the Army from 1963 to 1965 I did my duty to the nation and served without any reservations that came from the war. Later I protested against our military folly and the failure of our leaders but never, ever denigrated my brothers in arms for their service in that war. I knew a lot of young men who dodged the war in one way or another. I was willing to go, but never was called on to fight in Vietnam during my time in uniform. I am no hero but I know one when I see one, and John Kerry is one twice over.

I am hearing a lot about how John Kerry protested the war. “Isn’t it a shame about how he is dishonoring our dead”, is one of the quotes being published. John Kerry could have gotten out of the war as did our current President, he had the contacts, his family had the juice, but he did not, he served. He was wounded and decorated for valor; he lived in the uncommon awareness of his own mortality and saw the dead and dying during his service. He served by choice. He honored his brethrens’ deaths and wounds greatly by telling our government that it was wrong about Vietnam after he was released from duty. He is twice a hero for having made those choices. Both of them are easy ones to avoid for a young man of means.

Integrity can be misrepresented, honor can be besmirched, uncommon decency can be recast into something twisted and perverse and heroism can be denied. I have seen all of those things and more done in the past and if God grants me another few days alive I will probably see all of them again. They are more common today than the plain faith in humanity that made our nation great in the first place. I do not find it strange that men who fought in Vietnam could disagree with one another. Disagreement is built into the human genome right under the proclivity for war. I have loved many people who disagreed with me on major points of view held by both of us. I have never hated anyone simply because they disagreed with me, it is not my way, but some people do. John Kerry is a hero to those of us who think Vietnam was a mistake, those who do not will never grant him that status despite his service in that war. Those who hate him because he protested a war after fighting in it will have to sort that position out for them selves. I respect him all the more for that fact.

We will find out how deep the prejudice flows in this nation today against the sacred right of protest that many of our warriors in the past died to protect. We have fought to maintain the rights of men and women many times in the past. We have changed the world with our system of open democracy and a market driven economy. It has not been our military that made most of the difference in leading the world toward freedom but the spirit and integrity of our people. Now we will find out if that spirit and integrity can stand up to one more drenching in the politics of destruction.

I do not hate our current President. I could hate no one because their family protected them against the threat of service in Vietnam. I am not angry that his life of privilege has given him opportunities denied many of us. I do disagree with him on one thing in particular. I believe that it is not often necessary to sacrifice our children to war in order to lead the world into an enlightened age. We do not have to use the tools of empire to make our world a better place. I do not find his family dynasty threatening in any great degree. In the end the people of this nation will decide what they will tolerate from our leaders. They will do that regardless of all the manipulations of reality and destructive baggage that they encounter along the way. When I compare George W Bush to John Kerry the comparison does not flatter Mr. Bush. That is why the attack dogs are being turned loose even before the Primary season is over.

It does not surprise me that we are hearing from the apologists for Vietnam and those who still believe that it was an honorable war. A lot of us hold a different opinion but we will see what happens soon enough. I suspect that the Bush family is coming to the end of a string of wins for various reasons. One of them might be how they used their connections to protect their son from service in Vietnam. Another might be the use of family loyalists to attack a man who fought valorously in Vietnam. Kerry suffered gladly for his nation and then fought at home to make it a better place after his military service was over. John Kerry is doubly a hero in my books, and always will be for what he did then. He is a man good enough to be our President. The question remaining is are we people good enough to elect him to that office. That question will be answered in November. God bless and keep you all safe in this election year where the choice will be between a maligned hero and a malingerer.

Posted by Henri Reynard at February 13, 2004 12:10 PM