Care about our veterans whether or not you support war


The very least the government can do is support those who have been injured in battle, physically or mentally.

I realize anyone under the age of 50 really doesn't get the connection between the civilian population and the soldiers during past wars.

This war on terrorism, this high-tech, smart-bomb war, certainly hasn't had much affect on rubber, butter or the sugar in our cupboards.

Maybe the price of gasoline could be a rationing of sorts, but you couldn't tell it by the SUVs and Hummers, the motor homes and big-dollar toys for grown-up boys.

I also realize money is being rationed. This is probably not the first time, but it is getting pretty serious when they tell us they don't have the money to save our local veteran's hospital.

There seems to be enough money to support the war and rebuild the infrastructure of said enemies, but none to support those who fought.

The very least the government can do is support those who have been injured in battle, physically or mentally.

Thirty-five years ago I came home from Vietnam and one of the ways that helped me deal with the chaos in my head was writing how I felt. I wrote the following piece called Lecture to the Joint Chiefs about eight years ago. I read it now and then so I don't forget how bad it was and how good we have it now.

If you read this piece it might remind you that we should all be connected. The feelings I have had from being separated from family, friends and the civilian population during Vietnam seem to ring true once again for the soldiers of this war.

Closing the veteran's hospital is not an option. It is not even a choice. You must be aware of the connection you have to this facility through the soldiers who fought before and the ones who will continue to fight.

I ask you to care about our veterans _ whether or not you support the war _ and to speak up in favor of saving the veteran's hospital. We all must support our troops. I ask everyone to write letters to the editor, to sign petitions and to work to keep this much needed facility.

***Lecture to the Joint Chiefs:You know there's nothing that could ever compare with being in the teams.

Ernest Hemingway joined the Army to go to war so he could experience that facet of life and death.

Being in the teams during the Vietnam War is hard to explain. There is no way to put it into words. You simply had to be there.

The camaraderie during that era isn't something you can buy a ticket to, it's not like saying, ``Gee! I think I'll go experience what it was like to be in Vietnam this weekend.'' You can read the books, talk to the guys at the bar and go see the movies, but don't think you realize one-tenth of one percent of reality of war!I realize there has always been wars _ crusades, conflicts, military actions, civil wars, territorial wars, tribal wars, religious wars, racial wars, gang wars and holy wars.

But the only war I remember is Vietnam.

War is hell, and I'm sure all wars from the beginning of time have shared that common feeling. Human beings killing human beings, man's inhumanity to man _ and to women, children, dogs, cats, homes, neighborhoods, towns, shrines, streets, parks, cathedrals, the demolition of Mother Earth and the savage ruination of all things in the path of war.

The senseless killing not only of people, but the mutilation of emotions, the strangulation of love, the shredding of cultures, and the scattering of treasures so near and dear. There is the lament of the lost bloodlines and historical connections to the elders, scattered in the winds of exploding plastic. They are crushed beneath the unforgiving, relentless onslaught of feet, sandals, boots, cart wheels, iron tracks and troop transporters. Huey's blowing water, sand, mud and blood into every seam of canvas-covered flak jackets, blown to bits until there is nothing but the absence of hearts not beating, the ghosts of families, vegetation that's no longer there and the silence so lacking of substance there is only a vacuum! And even that has no direction!The U.S. government sent to war its young and spirited troops, believing in America, believing in their leaders, believing in their country, believing in the oneness that held troops much like themselves together in spirit and in strength in past wars. Believing without question that this oneness would be forever and would hold true for them in their time of need.

How dare the U.S. government send off its young without the collective strength that had been the lifeblood of every soldier who had ever fought the good fight. The good fight that has been understood by every American from the very inception of freedom.

How dare these powers who cannot see what the people see, these powers who cannot feel or touch or embrace the emotions, the very pulse of the life that has strengthened men of different colors and countries. These different people who are of one mind, one thought, one dream and one belief that all men are free, that all men are one and the same.

How dare the United States forget to honor and stand with its young soldiers. How dare these leaders of the free world forget where the strength came from at Valley Forge and the strength of spirit that has held this nation together in every war since.

How dare these generals, admirals, secretaries of state, presidents, vice presidents and members of Congress forget that if all do not stand together then many will fall.

As a soldier training to go to Vietnam, I knew something was different. As a soldier in Vietnam, I knew something was missing. As a soldier returning from Vietnam, I knew a lot was different.

I could never put my finger on it. I could never identify the void, the emptiness, the feelings of separation, the feeling of alienation.

How was I different? How was I now not a part of something I had always been a part of? Had I changed? Was it just me or was it my brother, my dad, mother, sister, my family, the neighborhood? Was there something I was missing somehow? Things were forever different. Somehow people didn't seem the same. Weren't they part of what I had been through? Didn't they feel a part of what I had done? Somehow the spirit of the nation, the strengths and goals of the masses had been divided. As a soldier returning to seek comfort and strength through compassion and caring from the people of this nation and to be recharged by the spirit I had fought for, I realized the division was bleeding the nation, causing fear and chaos.

This instability was created by a nation of people divided, separated from their young warriors not only by geography but in their souls, not believing in what their young were doing, not completely sure about the decisions of their elected leaders, not able to stand together with their neighbors.

People became fearful when they realized they were able to watch the young soldiers fight for their own lives, but not the lifeblood of the spirit of the nation. People began to realize they were not a part of the great movements of the past and what they were watching on television was not something they could be _ or even wanted to be _ a part of.

How could someone sitting in their living room _ in an overstuffed chair, belching dinner and telling the kids to shut up because they wanted to hear the body count today _ have any idea about the spiritual strength of oneness the soldiers and the families of the soldiers of past wars felt? How could people so far removed from the reality of war _ the smell, heat, dust, mud, wet, cold, sweat and filth _ removed not only from the physical but so unaware of the emotional side of the war ever feel a part of it? How then could the strength that only comes from one spirit, one all encompassing compassion from all people united as one body and mind ever be felt the same in this Vietnam.

I am beginning to realize what was so different, but when did we as a nation lose this one intangible thing that held us together? More importantly, how did we lose this connection between the citizens and the soldiers, and how do we regain this connection before we are no longer one nation? Pierre Remillard of Walla Walla served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam from 1968-70. He is a member of the UDT-SEAL Association, Naval Special Warfare.


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