In the very early 1960’s, we faced a threat from communist missals in Cuba. A blockade was set up to prevent Soviet ships from entering Cuba’s harbor. All of America showed the patriotic fervor that she has been blessed with since our War for Independence.
Coming from a Navy family (both Mom’s brothers were in the Navy), when I ended up on academic suspension from college because of pneumonia twice in the second semester of my sophomore year, I enlisted.
The first two years were fine. We came and went from the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego. San Diego was a sailor’s paradise. We were welcomed with open arms. Broadway was full of establishments that catered to the military. Then, we started sending “advisors” to Viet Nam. It didn’t take long before the country, especially the youth, to realize that our presence there was not to defend freedom, but for monetary purposes. The youth of America began to demonstrate against the war. Draft cards were burnt. Young men fled to Canada to avoid the draft.
It was no longer a peaceful drive home from the hospital to our house. Demonstrators took up picketing outside the main hospital gate. Those of us wearing uniforms when we left the hospital were met with angry youth who mistakenly took their ire out on those of us in the service. We were pelted with rotten vegetables, rotten tomatoes, and rotten eggs. Their anger was misplaced. People such as Jane Fonda frequented North Viet Nam, and protested there, again, misdirection her ire at the members of the military, even though we were simply following orders. It’s ingrained in the GI to obey any order with out question. True there were some GI’s such as. Lt. Callie who perpetrated atrocities on the Viet people.
When we returned from our service, we were met with disdain. We were seen as the instruments of the war, not the patriots we were. We were never thanked or welcomed home.
Today, however, the country has found it’s roots in patriotism again. The GI’s returning from the Middle East are met as they should be. With respect and appreciation. People began thanking them for their service. It became contagious. Those of us vets who proudly wore emblems of our service to America were thanked for our service, regardless of when it was.
We could once again feel proud of our service, and the thanks we were long due.
War is never pretty. It is probably the vilest and most disgusting thing for humans to engage in. However, wars are waged, not by the men and women in the ranks of the services, but by the Generals and governments. The individual GI’s are vowed to be the instruments of the wasr. We simply followed orders.
So, on this Memorial Day weekend, be sure to thank any Vet you know, and any one wearing the uniform of our country. We served, so that in the long run, others rights to protest were protected. We served so that America could be free.