Saturday, November 11, 2006

My Favorite Vet

The peace activist in me took root early on, probably during my youth. For those of you who don't know, I grew up on one military base or another, the son of a Marine. It's safe to say my entire childhood took place in the shadow of war.

My dad was a teenager when he headed over the to fight in Viet Nam (click pic to enlarge. This was dad with cousins Kathy, Susan and Dianne on the way to Saigon.) By the time I was born in 1972 my dad was twenty-four, but the war was still raging and wouldn't end for another few years, in 1975.

By the time my father retired from the Marine Corps in 1986, the specter of Viet Nam still loomed largely over the country. (*click second pic of the retirement ceremony to enlarge.) The only time we ever really discussed Viet Nam was on Veteran's Day.

The fact is, I wasn't old or sophisticated enough to understand war and ask the right questions. Alternately, my dad never brought it up either. I can hardly blame him, if i spent my last years as a teenager getting shot at in some godforsaken jungle I'd want to forget that too. But that doesn't mean I wasn't curious.

Fast forward to 2006 and another war is raging. In fact, the Iraq mess is making a lot of folks revisit the ghost of Viet Nan. My mom and I were chatting about this a few months ago and she declared to me that Iraq reminds her more and more of Viet Nam every day.

"And we all know how that turned out," she noted.

I guess one lesson from Viet Nam was not lost on the American public. No one is willing to blame the troops this time around. And that a blessing. A quick peek at last week's election results is proof that we are more willing to take the government -- and not the GI's -- to task for their warmongering. After the shitty treatment my dad and his fellow vets took upon their return, I am glad that we learned at least that much from the Viet Nam war.

In conclusion I say this: war offends each and everyone of my sensibilities. I hate it. And for as long as I am alive, I will fight for peace. But just the same, my pride and respect for my father grows with time. Every Veteran's day I get a little more perspective on that, and for that I am grateful. Many sons of Vets were not so lucky as I am. In spite of his post-traumatic stress (and all the issues that stem from that) my dad was always able to be a good dad. Check that, a FANTASTIC dad. My brother and I turned out pretty well, we both adore our dad for doing such a great job inspite of all his war demons. But for every story that turns out like ours, there are dozens of families that weren't so fortunate.

Anyway, that's just a little something to ponder as we enjoy a long (Veteran's Day) weekend.

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