Usually around Memorial Day there are parades and events attended by survivors like me. Usually the men and women who represent the armed forces look a little bit old. I know that there are a lot of veterans of recent wars, like my son and his wife. If they are like me, I did not want to participate in any ceremony that was connected to war. But many people around the world in all kinds of different countries feel the need to show their appreciation for the service that was provided by the soldiers. I often watch an interview with a soldier who is now in his 80s and I watch his eyes swell up with emotion when recalling the war and those that died serving their country.
Many men and women while fighting in a war cannot take the time to soak in the entire travesty and the loss of humanity surrounding them. They can’t really take time to honor the fallen while they are engaged in action. There were times after a firefight when I got back to a secured location that I would just sit down in a corner and start shaking. This would last for a short time as I had to get back to the business of protecting the area. It wasn’t until I was about sixty years old and retiring that the gravity and the grossness of what I did hit me. Usually when thinking about my time in war I reflect on it almost like it was a movie. But then there are those days that the reality and the finality of my actions make me very emotional.
I can see recent veterans just trying to work hard and raise a family and get on with life without having to relive their experience in war. It is what you have to do to keep from breaking down. But usually on Memorial Day you cannot avoid remembering those faces that did not make it back from the war. For a lot of years I felt guilty about surviving the war. Why wasn’t I killed rather than the man next to me? I know these thoughts are not unique to me. It seems like mankind’s destiny is to repeatedly get involved in a war.
Last night I watched the show on the History Channel called the World Wars. I am always amazed at the number of casualties during World War I and World War II. Literally millions of men on both sides of the issue were killed in such a short time. During the part on the trench wars I was reminded of how I felt when there was incoming mortar rounds. There were times when I would jump into a previous bomb crater just to take cover from the exploding shrapnel.
I think that mankind will always be involved in a war. Whether it is a civil war like the United States went through or a world war where many countries will serve up their young men and women to fight that war. I think about how I was prepared to go to war. I wasn’t, I watched John Wayne movies where the good guys always won. I had no idea how the reality of actually fighting was so fast, furious and chaotic. Since the Vietnam War, which originally was described as a policing action, I have witnessed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter what you or I think of the reason for going there our young men and women did not hesitate to represent their country. During the last two wars there was no draft, just men women who would volunteer to serve their country. This happens all over the world, not just in the United States.
I think war will always be around and the best that we can do is to find a way to lower the number of casualties, both on the field and after an injury. In looking at the numbers of casualties, starting back with WWI, the numbers have gone down. I do not believe that there will be no casualties in a war. Somebody’s son, daughter, father or mother will die in action as a result a war.
Today, there are drones and aircraft that do not need a human to operate them in the battle field. This will help keep casualty numbers down. But those drones and aircraft are not shooting at other drones and aircraft they are shooting at human beings. The casualties was still exists.
I hope that in the future when the veterans come home that there is a new and better functioning Veterans Administration to greet them. Certainly, those that are physically injured should be taking care of immediately. Those who carry battle scars in their memories will be sought out and taking care of. Physical wounds are much easier to recognize than the PTSD that many of our soldiers bring home. The Veterans Administration should be given sufficient funding to handle the needs of those who we sent to war. The Veterans Administration is a healthcare business and should be run by a professional in the healthcare industry. Maybe it’s a Doctor or healthcare administration professional that should run the VA. War will always be there and cannot be denied. But how we handle and survive war can be improved on.
Normally, I would end this by saying God bless America. But I will add this – God bless the men and woman who become a soldier for their country and are willing to stand up for its ideas even at the cost of their own life.