This morning while enjoying my annual Memorial Day bike ride around town, I found myself reflecting on my life, appreciating that I am still here to enjoy beautiful days like today.
I gave thanks for all the wonderful things I have in my life – my family, my health, friends, financial stability and love. I am grateful. I recognize that but for the hand of fate, everything could have turned out so different.
Like many young men of the Baby Boomer generation, I served in Vietnam. I still remember the final parting with my wife and family, seeing the fear in their eyes that this might be the last time they see me. For those who served, Vietnam stripped us down to our inner core. We saw things and did things we can’t banish, and if we survived we came home a different person. Afterwards, we grappled with the senselessness of it all.
I know many Vietnam veterans. None feel the war was worthwhile. Not to say that we didn’t do our duty. We did, and often under life-threatening circumstances. But how many people besides Baby Boomers remember the war today and how (because of the draft) it almost torn our country apart? Ask anyone under the age of twenty today about the Vietnam War and you’ll draw a blank. The general feeling now is that it was a waste of resources and lives, American and Vietnamese. If you doubt that assessment, I suggest you read the Pentagon Papers.
Yet we continue to perpetuate American involvement in endless conflicts around the world. Remember WWII? To me, that was a noble undertaking by our parents, pitting good against evil on a global scale. Compare that epic struggle to our twenty-year war in Afghanistan. Young men and women are still coming home in boxes even today. Why? For what purpose? As soon as we leave, the chronically corrupt Afghan government propped up with American money and lives will likely implode.
Somehow, our country has lost its way. Military involvement in regional conflagrations has become the norm. We need to pause and re-assess our national goals. Most importantly, we need to make sure that any conflict we send our youth into is worthy of their sacrifice. There should be specific objectives and we must have an agreed exit plan rather than yielding to evolving goals driven by the defense industry.
As a Baby Boomer veteran, I feel war should be a last resort, a response to a direct threat to the survival of United States. And its burden must be borne by all rather then just a small percentage of our our citizens. Moreover, choosing to go to war should be considered only after exhausting all other options. Sadly, our troops today often fight and die in misguided nation-building conflicts that have become merely a sideshow on the evening news.