Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thank You Vets, but ...

It seems that Veteran's Day this year was more solemn than usual. I know I felt more than in previous years. Yes, we are still at war but we were at war previous Vet's Days; I don't recall the same feelings for myself (could be age) or the difference in the coverage. The celebrations, if you call it that, I saw were smaller and quieter.

Some research I am starting for my self is on the guilt of those who didn't actually go to war. I don't mean that in the usual way. I don't mean the ones like my dad who was turned down because of health. I mean those who were drafted or chose to enlist during war but stayed somewhere in the U.S. Instead of “shipping out”. Their work was important but not in the movie way.

In the case of my spouse, he asked to go to Vietnam when he enlisted but the military said no-he spent the whole 4 years in the U.S. We were talking about the guilt of enlistees that stayed states side. He said he didn't feel guilt because he tried to go, actually the dope tried to go more than once. He was angry when he didn't get to go. You may have guessed he was very young when he enlisted. He just wanted to get away from home and had a yen to be a world traveler and or a helicopter pilot. Now he will tell you he is glad the military gave him those tests and assigned him where they did.

We know now that the WWII vets that did “ship-out” just “sucked it up”, didn't usually talk about it, many came home to drink and become unruly, one of my uncles, some probably committed suicide. Only now are we understanding or trying to understand. Then too what about those who served and serve in Korea? I was engaged years ago to a guy who went to Korea when it was no longer called the Korean War. He was definitely changed by the experience. He wrote to me about how surprised he was that it was still a dangerous duty that people here did not realize. So you know many Korean Vets suffered and suffer in silence too.

However, are there other Vets that have self-recrimination because they did not get sent “over seas” but yet they felt relief? I am sure there are. Do they suffer quietly for years or even know why their lives are not quite the same? I'll bet they do have changes with which they need to deal. I just doubt too that anyone would help them understand their own version of war-changes-all. If the military is just beginning therapies for PTSD and more, they probably aren't even thinking about this one.

I just wonder.

I looked up some notes from (yes, I keep notes when I really like a Twain piece of wisdom) another Mark Twain favorite of mine I would like to share part of it with you. It is sometimes called the War Prayer. Please read it carefully and more than once. Put it aside for a while, let it nag at you, then read it again. You can find the whole thing here or here.

Here is a part of it from my notes. The speaker is a messenger from God to a small congregation after they prayed for victory over their enemy.

Ponder this-keep it in mind. If you beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! Lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it. “You have heard your servant's prayer-the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it-that part which the pastor and also you in your hearts, fervently prayed silently...”

When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory-must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. ...

There is more but at least you have a good part of the point here.

Read the whole thing alone first if you can and think it over then share with someone.

This particular piece of writing, by one of my favorite authors, made me reconsider my views on any war at all. I still wonder if there really is such a thing as a just war. Part of me says yes while part of me says no. If all the “regular”, non-governmental people said no to war then what? But it would take ALL of the “governed-every person everywhere. So, that is a dream. For whatever reason or reasons, We humans must have a “leader” and many of us are easily led. I repeat-THAT IS A DREAM.

I can be grateful to the Veterans for what they did and what the soldiers are doing now but I now question the logic and the sense of those who decide to send people into the horrible “theater” of war. (It is not a theater, people are not pretending. People are really dying.)

Now how to get out once you are in?????

(The photo caption reads Just Say No. The bird is a female summer tanager)


  1. Thank YOU,

    This is a very worthy point of view that only those who see all sides as human beings worthy of the blessings of God, can see. I grow more and more interested in the writings of Mark Twain, and for that I thank you again. How can any one pray for anything but peace? God bless all people with peace!

  2. I know some Vietnam-era draftees sent to Korea and Germany. That has messed with peoples' heads BIG time. I know one guy who spent his tour of duty during the Vietnam War in Germany, and later (in the '80s and '90s, when it was "cool" to be a Vietnam veteran), told all sorts of stories about "being in 'Nam" and also getting spit on by the DFH's when he got home. He became prominent in local politics and the entire charade came crashing down when it was revealed he had never been in Vietnam at all.

    I have to think that so much of this is because we mythologize war in America. The conservative right wants every war to be World War II, when we were all "unified" and "patriotic" and basically everyone was united behind a noble cause. And the liberal left wants every war to be Vietnam, unified in protest, justified and proven right by history. The thing is, both WWII and Vietnam were their own unique moments in history.

  3. thomas,
    Thanks for the comment.
    There is much more to Mark Twain's writing than most of us know. His writings reflected what was happening in his life. As I think our reading of him reflects our life cycles and the world around us. Kind of like reading a Bible, interpretation can change as we change.
    If you read the rest of the War Prayer, you saw that he didn't really mince words.

  4. Southern Beale,
    Thanks for the comments.
    Thanks for the story of the "Vietnam Vet". Even more cause for wonder about the others that didn't use an untruth for their own benefit. If the idea worked it tells me there are those with guilt that didn't go.
    Moments in time are moments in time but re-examination should never stop in the case of war. Even though some of us may change our excuses some will pause to think.
    As I listened to a Sunday morning news, talk show, interview with a Dem.; I puzzled why Dems still think they have to sound tough and justify even taking time to think through a war decision.
    It really is ridiculous. As you wrote, the Vietnam war, was just a moment and should not still be determining Dems. policies. They have nothing for which to apologize.