My morning routine includes watching the news on two different channels. In the last few days one of the stories has been about Falluja Iraq. The Taliban seems to have claimed that city and now recent veterans are feeling the pain of losing a city they fought so hard to keep out of the Taliban’s hands. The question on the news program was that was asked of the veteran was, ”Was it worth it”? Each of the veterans that were interviewed seemed to struggle with their answers. The best answer that I heard was that,” anytime a man fights for another man’s freedom it has to be worth”. This question that is now haunting our recent veterans is the same question that has haunted past veterans for decades.
Veterans of World War II suffered the same consequences of wars the current veterans suffer. But World War II was a different kind of war. It had front lines, a recognizable location that placed the enemy on one side and our soldiers on the other side. Our World War II veterans went overseas and were welcomed by the citizens of many of the countries they fought in. During World War II the enemy was fairly easy to recognize. There seem to be certain rules of war that everyone followed. They wore uniforms where certain insignias gave you an indication of which side they were on. Even though our World War II veterans fought in foreign countries and they felt like liberators.
Then there was the Korean War. This this war also had a line. And by your position on the line you were on or the uniform worn, one could usually know if the person was friend or foe. Our Korean War veterans did not receive the same kind of welcome that our World War II veterans did when they came home. I think this is the first time that the good guys did not win. In World War II you could see where the troops started and fought and won those battles. In Korea the end result was a line that divided the country. It did not seem like there was any battle that was won which resulted in South Korea’s triumph over North Korea. It was a stalemate; both still exist with the line dividing the country. I think this is the first time that the question for the Korean War veterans was.” Was it worth it”.
Although there were other campaigns after the Korean War the next big event was the Vietnam War. I am a veteran of that war. Just the thought of going to war during that time was not a popular position. We did not have enough soldiers and so the government reinstated the draft. What a horrible way to get your citizens into the Armed Forces to fight a war. In World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there were lines of men and women ready to serve their country. By the time the Vietnam War was upon us, it was originally called a policing action, the population was tired of war. But the people that were in government mostly grew up with World War I and World War II in their history. They were proud of the United States for its actions abroad. So with little effort those people in power decided to send our soldiers overseas again. They were not the ones dodging bullets are getting sick with fever. And so with the noble ideal of saving the world again we went to war. I’ve mentioned before about how I was greeted when I got back from the war. It was not good. It was hard enough just to decide to serve in the armed forces during that time with all the antiwar sentiment. In my mind we were the good guys again going out to save the world. It did not occur to me at that time that maybe those people that we were go to save did not really want us there. In my mind, who wouldn’t want us there; we are the United States of America the greatest people that ever lived. And with images of John Wayne and the many movies that I’ve seen before going to war, I want to save the world. During the years that I was in school we were only taught about war by review of such wars like World War I and World War II. We won those wars. At least that is how I viewed it.
Some decades later as I look back at the Vietnam War I asked myself, ”Was it worth it”. I think that the answer that the young man gave on television today;” any time a man fights for another man’s freedom it has to be worth it” is correct. So on a grand scale was the war worth it? No, the areas that we fought for fell into the hands of our so-called enemy. Of course the people I call the enemy were the natives of the country. It was their country and they were fighting to keep a foreign power out of their lives. I know of a South Vietnamese soldier who now lives in America feels lost because of fighting for the South Vietnamese side. He aligned himself with United States Army. The U.S. left him and his family alone to face the wrath of the conquering North Vietnamese army. He felt that the Americans abandoned him and his country and his people. I cannot disagree with him. If you look on the larger scale that war was not worth the loss of the many lives and the pain of the many families it affected. So I have to look at it in a more personal view. I still believe that I fought to keep the South Vietnamese families from the North Vietnamese Communist. And on an individual level I fought for another man’s freedom. My generations of veterans have felt the pain and the questions that are now being addressed by Iraqi veterans. My youngest son is an Iraqi veteran. We both find it hard to talk about each of our wartime experiences. Those questions seem to attack our very souls. So I have to believe, as I do, that I fought for another man’s freedom and that fight is always worth it.
So I say to those veterans, look inside yourself and find the real reason that you put yourself in jeopardy. It is one of the noblest reasons you’ll find. You fought for another man’s freedom.