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Almost 30 years ago, on Christmas Day, just before I left the East Coast for good, I finally mustered the gumption to visit the (then new) Vietnam Memorial in DC. I figured nobody would be there, and I was right... it was cold as hell- that kind of humid, icy cold in the low teens that slices through your sinuses and burns the lungs with each breath. As light snow flurries slowly began to fall and while the rest of the city was opening their presents, sipping their toddies and enjoying their morning festivities, I leisurely walked toward the monument, trying to kill a few hours before my flight for California took off from National.

I hadn't been entirely sure how I'd react - a part of me wanted to turn around, get back on the Metro and wait in the warm comfort of the terminal, but something drew me there anyway. I couldn't have anticipated what would happen as my trudging feet left dark footprints on the light dusting of snow....

It had taken me some time to arrive at the point where I thought I could handle it; I'd been out of the Navy for about 10 years then and I'd lost several shipmates in that particular conflict - performing tasks that by today's standards were "non-Naval" in character. I found some of them on that wall - traced each engraved name with a finger and hoped that they were in a better place. Then as I turned around to leave, I spotted an unexpected name out of the corner of my eye- and that's when I lost it. I knew he'd enlisted right after he got out of high school in ’69 - he joined the Marines because that's what his dad did during the Korean war in '51. There always seems to be something about the genetic predisposition of people who have Corps blood in them: I dunno... but I always wondered what had happened to him. I'd imagined he'd done his tour, was discharged somewhere else, gotten married to some hot, curvy redhead, got a job and had a bunch of kids like he always used to daydream.

What made this one particularly hard to stomach was that Tommy and I had been in a band together in high school, pimping folk music for cigarette money at local taverns and coffee houses. We were great friends and shared several classes - and when I needed a date for his grad night in high school, he conned his kid sister into going with me and we wound up having a lot of fun together that evening - four friends having a blast. We were as close to being family without biological ties as people could get. But then, to see his name up there as one more casualty in a senseless, contrived "police action" and realize that someone with whom I had a personal history during an all too brief period of innocence had wound up as another sacrificial meat offering to Nixon and his brass-hat jackals in the Pentagon so they could test and develop new weapons systems was the final straw.

Two hours later as the aircraft's landing gear were retracting into the wheel wells, gaining altitude and vectoring westward over northern Virginia, I felt an extreme need to take a shower and cleanse myself of the sorrow, pain and anger that was washing over me. Instead I gulped down a couple of gin gimlets to help deal with it until my arrival in San Francisco - thanking God for first class perks. I never looked back, and I’ve never returned. To this day, 30 years later, it’s still too damned evocative. Once was quite enough.

Much has been said about patriotism for the last dozen or so years in this country and, not surprisingly, the ones who bark the loudest in their endorsement of perpetuating our brand of insanity called "Homeland Security" have the greatest proportion among them who have never lifted a weapon against an enemy of our Country or served a single minute in her defense. Indeed the definition of the word "patriot" frequently shifts during nation-changing events, and 9-11 was (and continues to be) one of those events; however history continues to prove that wars are more frequently won and kept short by practiced strategy, wise use of resources, cunning, deception and skill instead of singular brute force. As a nation we've tolerated over a decade of horrifyingly expensive brute force and in the process drained our nation’s treasure, sullied our image abroad and weakened our internal compass - by allowing ourselves to relinquish our liberty for security we have become both "broke" and "broken". And to this day we still can't seem to find the resources to properly care for our living, surviving veterans for no other reason than political enmity.

Given this country's track record of international policy going back to 1948: recognizing that almost all of the conflicts this country have fought since then have resulted in squandering our resources in the pursuit of doctrine instead of vanquishing our enemies in the pursuit of preserving our quality of life, it should be obvious by now (altruistic though it may be) that we have no business spending another dime of our tax money or spilling another drop of our warrior’s blood on anyone outside our borders until all of our own people are educated, fed, healthy, employed and well-represented in the halls of our government. I suspect that the effects of thousands of defense contractor lobbyists peddling corporate influence in the halls of Congress wasn't what Madison, Jefferson or the rest of the architects of our government ever had in mind; but anyone who casually studies recent history, however, will recall the results of what 20 years of corporate fascism did for Italy and how it ended in Milan on April 28, 1945. How long it will take for the people in this country to arrive at that same conclusion is anybody's guess.

An unimaginable amount of blood has been spilled throughout the history of this country to enable every United States citizen to pontificate their opinions on thus and so. Some of it is frequently thoughtful and insightful; some of it is sophomoric and idealistic - still others are vulgar and regressive... but all of it has been bought and paid for by some citizen-soldier, airman, marine or sailor's blood. This Memorial Day must be a time to remember that. But until the day arrives when the majority of Americans understand that we are being played for fools by trans-national corporations, the people we’ve elected under false pretenses to represent us, our justice system, our banks, our insurance companies and special interests to perpetuate international conflicts so that a few shadow banksters can become unbelievably wealthy, the very principles for which all those men and women who gave their last full measure will continue to be at grave risk.

Semper fi, Tommy. Your voice, your chops and your courage are not forgotten.

Originally posted to Anakai on Mon May 26, 2014 at 01:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you (15+ / 0-)

    this could have easily been the thoughts of my late husband or one of his many friends who also did their time in Vietnam.

    There is a great difference between those who have actually seen what war looks like and those have not. Those who have had the experience are not nearly as willing involve us is conflicts that have no real purpose.

    My husband and most of his friends are gone now, though they managed to make it home their lives ere shortened by that year or two they spent there and they all died young.

    War gives us nothing but the incredible loss of potential of all of the young people who never come home alive but then again those who come home are never the same. My husband as a well adjusted guy but even he struggled with his experiences.

    As I sit here and remember how sad  that struggle made me I think of my young cousin who used to fly across the country to see me after each tour he did in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Over the years and 6 tours I watched a brilliant young man full of energy and dreams fade into the same kind of struggles I lived with for years. His future now is not as bright or as certain as it once was.

    All to feed someones ego. Someone who really wasn't even good enough to shine his shoes. We have learned s very little from our mistakes of the past.

    War should be the very last resort when all else has failed and there are no other options to protect our country from imminent threat.

    There is no other cause worthy of such a great sacrifice.

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Mon May 26, 2014 at 02:04:49 AM PDT

    •  For those of us who were angry enough, (10+ / 0-)

      strong enough, and sufficiently grounded to survive that hellhole with some modicum of humanity intact, words cannot begin to describe our profound gratitude for the women in our lives who tolerated our subsequent moodiness, short tempers, low anger flashpoints and erratic behavior as we decompressed from that experience. Some would have to leave their husbands and take their children with them for fear of their physical safety out of self-preservation - and many families were destroyed from the lack of care for PTSD; those were the other casualties of that war that nobody else would talk about, and they probably had more of an anthropological effect on this country's quality of life afterwards than the politicians who kept that war going would dare admit.

      For those of us who were lucky enough to not have travelled that far down the rabbit hole, the faith and love shown us by our women on a daily basis who were sometimes the only things we had to cling to in darker moments deserved far more recognition than a chintzy green and white medal.

      Thank you.

    •  You echo the thoughts, too, of peacetime post-Nam (8+ / 0-)

      vets -- or at least this one.

      I enlisted before I graduated high school. The service offered things a farm kid who wouldn't be welcome in the oil patch could otherwise only dream of -- money for college, a steady job, maybe even a career.

      I served with people who'd been in VietNam.
      I served with people who'd been in Korea.
      I was a tad young to serve with actual WW2 vets, but my uncles on both sides had fought in that war.

      We believe, still, that this country has given us a life and a future that's worth fighting to be able to offer our children.

      But the Republican Party -- the party of Goldwater, Reagan, Nixon, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and MegaMoney, the party of Romney, Ryan, and UberGreed, the party of Palin and bigotry -- no. Those fall, in my way of thinking, right there under "all enemies, foreign and domestic."

      LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Mon May 26, 2014 at 08:50:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Heavy Medicine, Brother, (7+ / 0-)

    for this Memorial Day; Thank You. PSW, your comment and thoughts really hit home; In Remembrance of your husband and his pals. I am humbled, Brother Vet, SSK

    "Hey Clinton, I'm bushed" - Keith Richards UID 194838

    by Santa Susanna Kid on Mon May 26, 2014 at 02:59:05 AM PDT

  •  and that memorial, imho, is the best one I've seen (10+ / 0-)

    personally. Even though I had read about its design concept years before, when I started down the little path beside it, I happened to stop and look up down and around and noticed 'it's up over my head- how did I get here?' and then I stepped back and realized I hadn't made any moves or turns, just flowed along with the rest of the people and look what happened...that, is the right memorial for this war at least (imho), and the black marble finish too, is beautiful, too, and 'right' even as it is dark and impassive. I was born at the very end of '63, and I don't think I know anyone memorialized there, yet it was still moving enough to drive me almost to tears thinking of it.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Mon May 26, 2014 at 05:06:36 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for sharing! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I know that couldn't have been easy.

    On a tangential note, I used to live in DC and I haven't been back in ten years myself, due to some really ugly office politics I endured back there. I don't want to hate the place, as it's the site of some wonderful memories for me...but it was also the setting of some absolute nightmares. Which is too bad given that a lot of my history (going back to halfway through high school) happened there.

    Certaines personnes disent qu'il y a une femme à blâmer, Mais je sais que c'est ma faute sacrément.

    by RamblinDave on Mon May 26, 2014 at 08:52:25 AM PDT

  •  Thank you, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Santa Susanna Kid, Anakai, ladybug53

    so sad, so tragic, so totally unnecessary... My Vietnam vet husband and I went together one Memorial Day.  To this day, I cannot think of that visitation without tears. We have a friend on the Wall, his parents live near us.  Still a source of pain, and for what??  

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