Those are two surprise attacks that can never be erased, and the list for America could go on forever if we think hard about our country’s history at war. But those are two that will never be erased from the minds of the “baby boomer” generation.
Those slogans, if you will, should be remembered this Memorial Day weekend as too many Americans truly look at this holiday as just a paid day off work.
That’s sad, because the holiday is here for good reason. Had it not been for our nation’s war veterans we would probably be working come Monday morning.
I’ve read countless fascinating books on World War II, the Korean conflict and Vietnam and have come to a solemn conclusion: Not one single American war veteran has died in vain.
I admit that being a baby boomer I’m probably a bit biased and more educated on WWII and Vietnam than the nation’s majority. So when I talk to today’s youth — to me that includes anyone under the age of 40 — about the Vietnam War era I am floored by the number of people who would rather talk about the protesting and the hippy movement than what really happened in Southeast Asia. And I also am amazed that those non-vets who do know what happened there still don’t consider it a “real” war.
Well, open your eyes!
Sensationalism is what sells news, and the media knew it. By 1967 there were more than 500 journalists representing the only three television networks — ABC, NBC and CBS — and print media covering the war. The networks did us no favors by starting what we now call “reality TV.”
From 1967 until the end of the Nixon administration, and beyond, we were being fed the worst case war-scenario each day. And our nation’s youth — i.e., me — ate it up. They protested, called our soldiers baby killers, and burned their draft cards and/or fled to Canada or Mexico. It was so bad, in fact, that the media sensationalized a decisively whipped American military during the Tet Offensive in January 1968 when in fact our army grunts and marines destroyed the attacking North Vietnamese armies and the Vietcong practically 10 to one. It was, in fact, an old-fashioned butt-kicking of the highest order, yet the media chose to focus on the negative side of the battle — the attack on the American Embassy — and that we were caught with our pants down, when in fact the military knew it was coming and was well prepared for the attack when it began.
I asked a 32-year-old colleague what his thoughts were on the war in Southeast Asia. His response surprised me to say the least.
“Bad,” he said. “Until anyone experiences what a combat zone is like they will never come close to understanding what it was about. People can say they were well read about the subject, but until they come out of a concentration camp at 80 pounds or experience the war’s brutal intensity, none of us will ever fully understand what that war was truly like.”
But had he been asked this question 40 years ago, I have to wonder if his response would have been more negative.
Time heals all wounds, but that’s not entirely a good thing. We have grown to become less critical and more applauding of the actions of our armed forces. We thank our vets today as they return from the war in the Middle East, and we are proud of those who serve. Yet, perhaps we’ve learned to forgive and forget. I hope not.
My son is in the Army Reserves, and received his orders last week, and — after he volunteered without hesitation — is shipping out to fight in Iraq beginning Dec. 7 … you know, that date “that will live in infamy.”
I haven’t yet discussed in this rant the repercussions of Dec. 7 in our nation’s history.
My dad was a part of WWII. All of my uncles were a part of it.
We are fortunate to have a loving God. I can only pray to Him that I won’t have to be a part of another Dec. 7. Either way, I am very proud to have a son who is just as proud to protect his country, who could also pay with his life for my freedom.
That would also include yours, too.
Doug Loehr is a member of the Examiner newsroom and can be reached at 592-3060, ext. 136, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.