Last Monday was Memorial Day and today is the 77th anniversary of D-Day. Those days should remind us of the sacrifice of those who have served this country in the military, and their family members who shared in that sacrifice. Every year on Memorial Day we honor those who gave their lives in all of our wars so that we can live in freedom. D-Day commemorates the largest amphibious landing in history, that started the offensive that finally crushed the Nazi hold on the European continent.
Like those who fought in all of our conflicts, our combatants were mostly very young. Those that gave their lives were usually between 18 and 25. In addition to their lives, they gave up their future. They gave up their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. They forfeited spouses, fiancés, and children. While remembering them, we should never forget those they left behind. The family and friends of our military dead will always carry the emptiness of a lost loved one.
Those of us from the baby boom generation know that our fathers and mothers bore the weight of combat, of seeing friends die and/or the worry for husbands, wives, relatives and neighbors who were “overseas”. Some veterans of WWII also served in Korea. All who served Korea faced the same fears and anxieties all military face in war.
Our wars last century, continued with Vietnam. One would think that we would have learned our lesson after Korea. That lesson should have been that we should never enter a “conflict”, (read war), that we don’t intend to win. Fighting to a stalemate is a tragic forfeiture of our most precious resource, our military men and women.
Our elite establishment leaders rarely seem to care. President Kennedy’s and President Johnson’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, stated in interviews and writing that he knew, early on, that we couldn’t win in Vietnam. Yet, he planned and orchestrated a “conflict” that sent millions of our military personnel in harm’s way and cost 58,000 American lives in a war he knew we couldn’t win. What was worse was that for the first time in the Vietnam era, our returning veterans were not welcomed home. They were yelled at, spit upon and called baby killers, probably by the parents of the anarchists, Antifa and BLM radicals who rioted and looted last summer.
The first President Bush sent our military into the first Gulf War in 1991. He created a coalition of nations and quickly defeated the enemy with a minimum cost of lives, then he stopped and allowed Saddam Hussein to continue to remain in power. That’s not winning, that’s postponing another conflict. That’s what happened. George W. Bush sent our military back a decade later for a much longer period and at a much greater loss of life. If it sounds like my remarks about this are bitter, it is because they are. My oldest son was almost killed in Iraq around Easter of 2004, in a war that was all but finished ten years earlier.
In a positive piece of irony, my son tells me that nobody has been more helpful to him and his Iraqi War veteran friends, than Vietnam veterans. Possibly because they faced such horrendous ingratitude upon their return, the Vietnam vets have been so instrumental in assisting and aiding our military when they return home from Iraq or Afghanistan.
Regardless of the war or conflict they fought in, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Granada or any of the other mini-wars, we owe them a debt we can never repay, but whenever possible, we should try. Thank any vets you see wearing the caps or shirts declaring when and where they put themselves in danger for us. Buy them a meal or a coffee. Whatever it is, it will never be enough to repay their sacrifice, but at least they will know that they are really appreciated.