Sunday, May 24, 2009
Even though I served, and even though people I knew in Vietnam died there; even though I cared for many wounded GIs in the aftermath of rocket attacks or in my capacity as OIC of the medevac program; even though my dad was in the Army, my father-in-law in the Navy (both with scrambled eggs on their caps); even though I've always admired our military personnel whether draftees back then or volunteers now; I've never given much serious though to Memorial Day. Maybe it's because, like Mothers' Day, or Earth Day, or Nurses' Day, if you don't honor those things daily, then doing so on some single occasion seems like show with no tell.
But for no reason I can say, today I'm thinking of my friend JB, who, like me, served as a doc in Vietnam; but unlike me, he spent a year in charge of a surgical hospital operating on thousands of injured GIs and a few Vietnamese from both sides of the war. He saved lives, many of them. As did his now wife, Jeannie, a surgical nurse in the same unit.
JB and I couldn't be more different politically, religiously. We couldn't be more the same, surgical trainingly, patient devotionally. Unlike some who traverse these pages, JB and I can discuss matters on which we disagree, respectfully, well-informed, open-mindedly. We can find areas in which we agree. And, because we respect (and, dare I say, love) each other, these discussions are enriching for both of us.
Because he went deeper, literally (the link is to an impressive, and graphic, video) into the horrors of the war than I did, he bears a heavier burden now, I think. He might disagree. But in my mind JB, though he never fired a shot (as far as I know) when in Vietnam, is as much a hero as any who did. And they all are.
Maybe people who just did their jobs aren't, by some definition, heroes. Maybe I don't really know the meaning of the word. But today, Memorial Day, I just want to say, for no particular reason, and no differently than any other day:
JB, you are among my heroes, if there are any left in my mind. And I wish the people with whom I disagree on so much were like you. Were that so, our democracy would be safe indeed.
And not because of your guns.