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A letter appeared in the November 11 issue of the Reader entitled “Veterans Day Reality”. In that letter I found a few things that I agree with. The writer believes, as do I, that the word “hero” is overused. However
I believe that there is a difference between the individuals who choose to serve in the armed forces and those who chose not to. I suspect that most veterans, prior to our employing a ‘professional” armed force, did not volunteer for military service but did serve when they were drafted. They did not, as some individuals did, seek deferments via medical claims, or political influence. In the Vietnam “non war” it was possible to avoid military service by enrolling in college. A number of “colleges” appeared at that time to provide safe haven for its ‘student body”; they went out of business when the draft was discontinued. If all veterans are not “heroes”, and I agree, what do you call those men who chose to avoid military service while allowing someone else to take their place? Vice President Cheney managed to finagle 5 deferments, President Bush was somehow able to jump the waiting list for a slot in the Texas Air National guard.
He then chose not to go to Vietnam but rather to serve his military time defending Texas. They were not alone. Somewhere about 16 million men sought deferments during that “non war”. I believe that such practices while legal are similar to those of the Civil War when men were able to have substitutes serve in their stead.
To compare vets, regardless of their military occupation, to someone who has a similar job in civilian life,
indicates the writers ignorance of what military life is all about. Men and women who serve during a “non war” do not go home each evening to family, a good hot meal, and dry, warm, SAFE bed at the close of the ‘business day.
During WW2, some clerks, cooks, truck drivers, Chaplain’s assistants did not see their families for three or four years.
In ground combat forces, army, marines, regardless of your basic MOS “Military Occupational Specialty”, you can be called upon to drop your pen, type writer, frying pan and grab a rifle. The Army at the Battle of the Bulge, and the Marines at Guadalcanal are examples of why civilian occupations do not mirror military ones. Further, many of our vets have been exposed to Agent Orange and other chemical hazards that civilian workers are not exposed to. The writer states that we did not owe our freedom to veterans
I would suggest that vets of the
American revolution, the Civil war, and WW2 might take issue with that statement .. I would also
question his assertion that,
“The military has often been instrumental in suppressing democracy, lawful dissent, and the many struggles for social justice and a better America “. The author cited no documentation for his charges.
I would agree that sometimes in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s State Militia were often used to inhibit the actions of unions under the guise of maintaining public order. I would cite the Homestead Strike of 1892 and the Pullman Strike of 1894as two examples of the State, not Federal, troops being used for industrial/political purposes, which indeed suppressed freedom of speech. More recently, in Ferguson, Mississippi the cry has been ,”Where were the National Guard when we needed them to keep the peace and protect property?”. Further, in 1963, President Kennedy called upon the Federalized Alabama National Guard to insure the right of Negro students to attend a White school. It appears to me that often the military has been called upon to protect rather than to deny the freedoms the writer mentioned. The author expresses concern that the epithet “hero” might be harmful to the returning vet. I doubt it. I have met a few vets, who I believe are representative of many others, none of whom consider themselves “heroes”, so I would suggest that the author stand easy on that account. The matter of giving thanks to those who served is a matter that each of us must decide for him/her self. I do believe that we, as individuals and as a Nation, owe a heartfelt thanks and a sincere apology to the men and women who were ordered to Vietnam and upon returning home were humiliated for doing what we conscripted them to do. True, as in the case of My Lai there were terrible abuses committed by our military representatives.
Those atrocities I do not deny nor do I try to justify. However, I state emphatically that unless an individual has been subjected to the soul shattering experiences that many of our young male and female representatives have been subjected to he/she might withhold judgment and as good citizens work to ensure that our young men and women are never again placed in such untenable situations.