Vietnam War, and a Brother Lost

Listening to Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” gives me the shivers. The song’s lyrics and the way it is sung makes me think on all that is good in America, the sacrifices of many patriots, service personnel, and citizens. The ‘City on a Hill’ as it has been depicted in the far past and by the late President Ronald Reagan.

Some believe in the United States of America. They believe She stands for something greater than herself, for justice and liberty, for freedom and inalienable rights, for goodness and rightness, for dignity and respect.

It is Memorial Day Weekend, and I have something to say.

As I write this blog, there are four men in my family serving in the U. S. military. My oldest son is in the Navy. My son-in-law is in the Air Force. My two nephews, in my two sisters’ families, are in the Army, one as an officer and one in special forces. I look at these young men: strong in character, resilient in action, moderate in behavior, and I feel that they are some of the best for they are quiet leaders by their own right. In the last few months, between them they’ve been serving outside our Country’s shores: Poland, Germany, Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, and I’m sure in a few other places that we aren’t told about.

Each one has said that their comrades look up to them. I can’t help but think that some of it is due to their upbringing, the values of hard work, honesty, helpfulness, and Christian beliefs. It helps to have strong sons who work hard and serve with integrity. But it’s not easy, the military path is often grueling.

I pray for each one. I know that each one has the potential of being in harm’s way in the near future when their deployments put them in the middle of the action. A lot has changed in the past year. It is hard to not worry and it is easy to get concerned about the many aspects to this time in history, the military objectives, and the possibilities that could impact their choices and futures. One must trust in God to protect our loved ones, and we ask Him to do so. God honors our prayers. He also has a plan and purpose for all that happens.

I think back to my grandfather and a couple of WWI stories that he told us one night as we sat in his living room, how, due to Divine Providence, his life was spared, the only time I heard him speak of the difficulties of war when he was a young man. Then, there was my uncle, who served in WWII, flying bombing missions of which I never heard him speak. His family has a string of 60-some tags that chronicle each mission that he flew and its success or lack thereof. My father had his short turn. He served in the Naval Reserve when we were just babies. None of my family served in the Vietnam War, but we wondered if it would be required of my brother and cousins.

But I do have a story about the Vietnam War and the cost to one family.

During my junior high and high school years, the Vietnam War was the continuing story on the nightly news. We would see the news footage. We would see the antiwar protestors. There was much opposition to the war. I remember the peace rallies, the peace signs, the war protests, the hippy movement that sort of coincided with all of this. The anti-government sentiment was strong in the public institutions of education. The draft was something that claimed many of our young men.

And it didn’t bode well for our military men. They failed to receive the support that was their due. I remember watching a public debate between a conservative personality and a liberal politician on my high school campus. The conservative didn’t even have a chance. The cheers for the liberal and boos for the conservative started before the debate even commenced. My family was more on the conservative pendulum so I didn’t really agree with all the anti-war protesting going on. Although, I do see some of it somewhat differently now.

The Vietnam War became personal one day in the form of a classmate’s reaction.

This high school peer was a year younger than me with a brother a year older than me. This schoolmate’s family were cowboys, a bit loud, and a bit in the middle of high school activities. In class one day, some students were ragging on about the stupidity of the endless Vietnam War and were putting it down in every form, blaming the government and all the things that they thought was wrong about the war.

After this had gone on for several minutes, a classmate spoke up, his face was red, his emotions barely in-check. With passion in his voice, this teenage peer informed our class that his oldest brother had given his life in Vietnam, he had died in the war. He said that his brother and the others that served in the war deserved a little respect. His flushed face and shaking voice spoke loudly of the cost of his brother’s death to him and to his family. His statement was an involuntary expression of angst which spoke to the need to honor those whom we had lost in the fields of combat. We could see his respect for the brother he lost.  Most importantly, we felt the pain of his loss.

The teacher was silent. The class hushed. The conversation silenced.

It was an awkward, tense moment.  I think he may have walked out of the room after making his statement. We all internalized the message. The war became extra real that day, and I never forgot the incident. This student spoke up for the honor of his brother, an honor due his memory, he, the older brother, who had given his all for the United States of America, and for the cause of freedom. The class of students had not considered or regarded this in their point of view.

Many years later this same young man, now a man, delivered a truckload of product to the farm where I lived. He was driving a semi-truck. I recognized him when we spoke. I never mentioned my memory of him in high school. He offered my oldest son who was around five at the time a ride in the truck around the outbuildings on the farm. But my son was a bit too shy. It made me feel happy that he had done so. My son recently mentioned this memory and said he wished he had done it!

So, today, thank the Americans who believe in liberty and freedom. Thank those who are serving our country. Thank those who have served in the past. Pray for all of those serving. Pray for our Commander In Chief, that he will lead in a way that serves America best and in the best interest of our military women and men.

Written in memory of one of America’s sons.