What Memorial Day means to me


I got out of the US army in January of 1971. I had spent most of 1969 in Vietnam. Like everyone else who has been involved in a shooting war, I had friends both there and from home who were killed or wounded.

Each Memorial Day, until I moved to Singapore, I would visit a memorial cemetery. Most times this was Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose, California. They have a large area set aside for soldiers. Sometimes I took one of my children but mostly I went alone.

I would usually take just one flower and look for the grave of a Vietnam soldier who had not been visited by anyone else. Most of the Vietnam dead buried at Oak Hill were from the area. I remember feeling how terribly sad it was to find the grave of a local boy that had no flowers on it. Why didn’t his parents or brothers and sisters or friends visit his grave on Memorial Day and leave something?

So many dead at 19 or 20 or 21. I am 58 now and almost daily the thought crosses my mind – how any one of these young men would have given anything to reach my age. I feel so very fortunate to have lived to have had children and grandchildren and, well, just to have gone on living.

Anyway, that’s what I did and I have a feeling other vets do that or similar things as well on that day.

The administration likes to throw around the phrase, “supporting the troops” or “not supporting the troops.” They twist this phrase in such a way as to make it sound like, if you want to bring the troops home to safety, you are not supporting them. But if you leave them there, dying at the rate of 100 per month or having their legs and arms blown off, you are showing patriotism and support.

This is not true Mr. Bush, at least as far as the troops are concerned. You don’t understand how the troops feel or what they want or what they view as support. You don’t understand it because you have never been a soldier in a war. You have never fired a weapon in a war or been fired upon. You have never been near a hand grenade or rocket or bomb when it exploded. You have never watched as another soldier got blown apart. You are a politician and a civilian. No matter what other titles you have the fact is that you don’t have the experience to know how the troops feel.

Unlike you, I and millions of other Americans like me, do have that experience. So I will presume to tell you how they feel. They want to come home. They hate Iraq. They hate the place, the heat, the fighting, the horror, the fear and the loneliness of being far from home. Many of them hate you. They are not stupid. They know now that you lied repeatedly to have an excuse to send them there. They know you continue to lie and are more interested in saving face than you are in saving their lives.

They hate the changes in themselves. None of them, not one, wounded or not, will ever be the same as they were before. This sick war and all that they have been forced to endure will burden them for the rest of their lives.

No, Mr. Bush, you don’t understand them at all. You don’t understand the desperate loneliness and feelings of isolation that they feel. But you will. Years from now, when history attests to the failure of your presidency and the disgrace you brought upon this nation, when not just the Democrats and the liberal press but everyone agrees that you were the worst president in our history, then you will understand. Most assuredly, that will be your legacy.

I sincerely hope that those feelings of sadness, loneliness, isolation and despair haunt you on Memorial Days for the rest of your life.

Explore posts in the same categories: Bush/Cheney, Indecency, Iraq, Military

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