Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day

Reposting something I wrote a couple of years ago:
(Think about the last two lines, above. If that isn't irony, I don't know what is.)
Monday, Memorial Day, a friend shared a Facebook meme: “Only two defining forces have offered to die for you. Jesus Christ, and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom...”  
And I thought, those who served in Vietnam as I did, before and after, killed there, didn’t die for our freedom. They died because they were poor, mostly, couldn’t get student deferments, or have daddies who bought them a pair of invisible bone spurs. They died not knowing or caring why they were there. Quoting another veteran, they died for a mistake. Taking and returning fire, they fought to protect themselves and their squadron, not anyone else. All they wanted was to ride those “freedom birds” back to the world with as many of their limbs as possible. The ones I evacuated mostly didn’t. Their Purple Hearts came at a much higher price than mine. And those who died were still dead three days later.  
I served in Danang, not far below the DMZ. “Rocket City,” we called it. When the rockets rained in and we dove for cover, it wasn’t for anyone’s freedom but our own. The beach there, China Beach, was beautiful, though; white sand, mild surf, and warm waters comparing favorably with the occasional nurse from the 95th Evac stripping her combat fatigues down to a bikini, as choppers patrolled the shore, gunners sitting halfway out the doors, feet resting on the struts, protecting our freedom to swim.  
Just down the beach was the civilian MACV compound, fenced, guarded, green, quartering contractors making big money servicing the war. Someday, I figured, China Beach would be a destination spot, adorned with expensive hotels, win or lose. And so it is.  
Protecting America’s freedom had nothing to do with it. Especially not to the orchestrators. The Domino Theory was a useful selling point. Now our trading partner, Vietnam did fall. And it has hotels and McDonalds.   If the term makes sense, World War II was a good war. There was a definable cause, and undeniable need. It liberated people held in cages, terminating that practice and Nazism forever for a while. And it ended the Depression. 
Afghanistan was justifiable, might even have made us safer, had Rumsfeld not let Osama off the hook, had Bush not bailed to pursue unrevealed intentions. Iraq’s “Domino Theory” was “Bringing Democracy to the Middle East,” as bogus as the former, and as the Gulf of Tonkin incident. It was never about protecting our freedom, even though more who fought there, and more people back home, believed it was; more than was the case with Vietnam. By then, propaganda had found a louder voice. Dick Cheney’s stock in Halliburton made out. Oil companies and defense contractors, too. Most everyone else paid dearly for the adventurism, and the bill still isn’t settled. 
It’s easier to believe our wars have been to defend freedom than to consider other reasons. No matter what, those who died deserve our veneration. And contrition, for the lives we’ve enjoyed since they lost theirs. And for our complicity in sending them, unquestioning, to fight wars instigated by old men whose kids rarely did, for reasons obscured beneath star-spangled bromides.  
It’s wrong, and lazy, to define patriotism only in terms of war; equate it only with those convinced to fight, for reasons they’re made to believe. It’s not their belief that needs questioning: it’s that of those who slap “Support Our Troops” stickers on their cars and trucks, fly flags that say “Behold my patriotism,” coal-roll, vote for tax cuts that deprive veterans of their rightful benefits, and call themselves patriots. 
After serving in Vietnam, Memorial Day makes me more angry than sad. Once a year the tears are real; the absence of those who died is eternal. Yet we remain at war, even as phony platitudes and intimations of future wars from a “president” who dodged the draft by fakery expose the day of remembrance as the manipulation it has always been. My friend, an honorable man who didn’t serve, believes with all his heart. I respect him for that. My anger may be overly self-righteous, but military members aren’t the only Americans protecting our freedom. So are teachers, nurses, housekeepers, factory workers, researchers, parents, climate protestors, plumbers, Social Democrats, the remaining actual conservatives, community organizers… 
But not those keeping us in a state of perpetual war, selling the myth that freedom is the reason.


  1. That's very well said...

    I never wanted to go to war and glad I didn't. Had I known then what I know now, I may not have signed up.

  2. (written in respect)
    I have a friend who served and left with all his limbs. Now he fights the losing battle with cancers (guess where he was as Agent Orange rained down). I didn't go, but saw the daily body count on the evening news, my first introduction to big data.
    I have to address the righteousness of liberating those from cages in that I have a good friend who was liberated from that inflicted on her by the North Vietnamese. 10 times(!) before her brother successfully brought her out. She married my other friend, a boat person who survived 30 days at sea and told me they would look in the morning to see who was missing from the storms. And, in the waning days of the war, another friend who could only talk to his brother in Czechoslovakia through a friend in France, and, if anyone found out, would have been imprisoned by the Communists (of whatever flavor). I can only attest to his certaintly it would have happened, and, since he was Vietnamese himself, who am I to say otherwise?
    I'll agree that China Beach, Vietnam now has many hotels, as you wrote. I'm not going to go there. Ever. Not even on cruise ship. I love the Vietnamese myself, and know that most of the world has no idea what governs them, they just live their lives daily and deal with whatever they have to deal with. That is, until foreigners bring infliction upon them.
    I spent some time on seeing who profited at HAL from the 2nd war, and, it's only in the realm of millionaires. Not tremendously impressive compared to the Bill-ionaires I research routinely. The oddest of the largest transactions titled "DII Industries, LLC Asbestos PI Trust", way back in 2005, to the tune of $2.5 Bill-ion. I won't pretend to understand it at the moment, first time of run across something like that. I will say they granted and are granting stock all the time, and this opens up a whole world of what really is happening amongst the filthy rich who take everyone's money and hurt them, maim them, and kill them.
    btw, I'm nestled between two war veterans who did serve, my dad (Marine - Japan, China), my son (Air Force - Iraq) who suffers still the effects of the psychological injuries so well waged these days, where we kill so many but are not ourselves killed so much physically as so many are mentally. When Smooth mentions suicide, I pay attention. People revel in how "simple" we "won", but they don't consider the conscience of those who did all that to others in foreign countries. What they saw is daily horror decades later, I assure you. And, my father-in-law, one of the fewer remaining D-Day veterans (Navy, he won't tell me what beach, still). I grew up among all of these. And I have many friends who served in and over and next to Vietnam, Marine, CIA, Air Force, Army, it's a consequence of being of those communities.
    Thanks for re-posting what you wrote before, timely, and edifying.

  3. seeker of wisdom and truthMay 25, 2020 at 12:45 PM

    Thank you for sharing this message again Dr. Schwab. It reveals our attraction to reading of your witness of personal experiences that explain your passion to publish your memorable introspection of the events that validate sharing with people who seek wisdom and truth.
    Two of my fraternity brothers were ROTC Army graduates. Both went to Viet Nam as helicopter pilots in early years. Ray survived 3 tours and is now retired from Boeing and living with his wife on Camano Island as a talented artist. Tim was killed on August 30, 1963 flying support on the Mekong delta. A high school friend Kile was an Air Force pilot shot down in North Viet Nam and spent over 5 years as a POW.
    I think of them and realize how lucky my life has been compared to the sacrifices they made to protect our freedom. I could not in good conscience betray their dedication to preserving our nation of liberty and justice for all.

  4. Our historical national faith in "American Exceptionalism" has allowed US to delude ourselves that we are always the good guys and invariably act for the benefit of the whole world. Even John Adams didn't believe human nature had changed just because some Northern Europeans decided to relocate over an ocean to North America.

    For those who might be interested, here is a fascinating and delightful 4 part conversion between podcaster Clay Jenkinson and historian Joseph Ellis regarding the Jefferson-Adams letters.

    The Thomas Jefferson Hour

  5. Looks like Drumpf is employing the National Guard. What happens when Drumpf won't leave office?

    The headline I read was "Local leaders ask for the military" RE: the recent rioting

    There it is...local leaders are willing to do anything to get their way. Whether that way is good or bad is irrelevant. It's control of the many by a few. Toss any Democratic solution out the window. These people want to show their power. It's enjoyable. Like moving pawns on a game board. They never have to fight. They have everyone and everything fighting on their behalf.

    The current riots are the example. FOX 'news' is spewing it's propaganda. When the on the ground reporter is stating facts. Laura Ingraham immediately starts changing those facts into race baiting propaganda. The reporter "corrects" her, and she continues as if she heard something completely different from the reporter. It's the same dynamic that starts conflicts.

    24 hour news was built for wars. It was not built for "news". It's powered by conflict. They have to keep you watching and retelling the news every hour gets old fast. So news networks hire "contributors".

    They are blowing this off as an "accident". Not sure how arresting a CNN crew for covering the event is an "accident" but, yup, the few who control the many w/o fear of repercussions.

  6. My husband had a deferment, he was in a journeyman program to become a machinist-- then the local board scratched his deferment due to a buildup requirement. He made it back-- really never talked about his service but had a few health issues on return--- We did start getting notices from the military re Agent Orange in the areas he served. He died April 19, 2020, of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma, after 4 years of treatment at SCCA. We were both angry, I am still angry. In his last week of life, I was asked if I could believe how unfair Trump was being treated--- I am surprised if none of you folks heard the explosion erupting from this pissed off old woman. May you all stay well.
    Linda Schrier

  7. Linda, you're one of those who's truth and experience shines through what you write.
    May you also stay well, and may your spirit continue healing even in the midst of all the crap that continues to rain down on all of us in much the same way the Agent did on our friends and loved ones. It's not the only way the indignity took mine, but it's one that needs to be told, again and again.
    Thanks, for telling.


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