Letters for July 22, 2015
Hard to tell the good guys anymore
A friend of mine posted on his Facebook page the question, “Why do we have wars?” As a Vietnam veteran, this is a subject that I have often thought about. I served 2 1/2 years in Vietnam. While there, I was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and two Bronze Stars. I say this not to brag or pat myself on the back, but so that you may understand the context I am writing these comments in.
Having done my duty, proudly served my country, and received all these nice awards, I should have returned to the U.S. a proud, happy trooper. But I can’t really say that is true. To say the least, I found the Vietnam war “disturbing.” Perhaps I had an attitude problem but there are things that I just didn’t understand and couldn’t accept. I couldn’t understand how my fellow soldiers treated the Vietnamese, the people we were supposed to be there protecting, with such lack of respect or compassion, referring to them as “gooks.”
I could not bring myself to hate the enemy (the Viet Cong and the NVA — North Vietnamese Army). Even though they were killing our troops, I could not hate them. After all, we were the ones invading their country. But weren’t we the good guys? Wasn’t our side the right side? After all, we were fighting for freedom and democracy, so we must be right. And how do I know that our side is the right side? Because my country has told me that our side is the right side. So here I am, G.I. Joe over here in someone else’s country fighting and knowing that my side is the right side.
But what about G.I. Joe in the North Vietnamese Army? His country has told him that his side is the right side. At least he’s fighting inside his own country.
So why was I there? I was there because my country told me we’re the good guys and we need to be there. Why is the Vietnamese soldier there? He is there because his country told him he is the good guy and he needs to be there. I couldn’t help but ask myself, am I really any different from my enemy? Neither of us really want to be doing this. We both have family we love and would rather be with. We both have aspirations, hopes, and desires. Are we really different? I left Vietnam with the knowledge that there are no good guys or bad guys. Just guys.
Then the Vietnam vets returned to the U.S. not to the cheers of people saying, “Thank you for your service.” We were returning from an unpopular war and were pushed under the rug, forgotten by our country and politicians. We were called “baby killers” and worse.
So here I have rambled on and on and still not answered the question, “Why is there war?” It certainly is not because of Joe Blow on the street. It seems that nations, ours included, are consumed with the desire for power. The desire to control everyone and everything. I still don’t understand why the countries that have nuclear weapons get to tell other countries they can’t have them. Who died and made them boss of the world? Why does anyone get to have them?
Why can’t we all just get along?