Thursday, August 26, 2010

Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan

Cheryl and I have been listening to The Things They Carried, a very powerful novel about Viet Nam, based on the authors real experiences there. I have to say that I was very hesitant to "read" this book. I was born in 1954 and grew up hearing the body count on the news every evening. I didn't have a lot of friends who served but I did know some folk who were there and that war was always at the edge of my generation's consciousness. The final year they drafted was 1972, the year I graduated high school. They continued to assign numbers for the next 4 years, just in case they decided to reinstate the draft. FWIW, info regarding the draft and links to charts of the draft numbers can be found here. My number was 32. Had the draft been in effect, I would have seen sunny South Viet Nam... or had to make some other life changing decision. I remember thinking about cutting off a toe, leaving for Canada, doing something to make myself ineligible. I do not know what I would have done - whether I would have served or not.

If I had ended up there, I don't know how the experience would have affected me. I have friends and acquaintances who have adjusted to the experience as well as anyone can. Like a scar, it has left something behind but doesn't impair their ability to function. In some ways it may have even helped them come to terms with the fragility and arbitrariness of life. Or there may be a cold, numb place in their hearts that will never completely heal. I know others who never recovered and as the John Gorka song, Semper Fi says, "Sometimes the wounds that never heal are easiest to hide," and "Some of the men who did survive were not the lucky ones." Our streets and homeless shelters are still littered with those men. I do know that as I listen to this powerful book, I feel a constant ache in my stomach as I imagine myself there, and I do imagine myself there. I feel a sadness at the dreams lost, at young men who never became old men, at families that never happened.

And then I think about Iraq and Afghanistan and the men and women there... those who will not come home... those who will come home with horrific injuries... and those who will come home with wounds we cannot see. Then, along with the ache in my stomach I feel an anger, a disgust, a profound sense of emptiness. I think of those who make decisions to go to war and wonder how they can sleep at night knowing the pain and loss and destruction their decisions have caused and I wonder whether they truly understand the cost...


Chad Zaucha said...

Hey, Roy. I'm dying for Glen Beck post.

roy said...

I'm thinking about it Chad ;-)