I got a note from a colleague today, Veterans Day 2022, saying, “Thank you for your service.” It was nice of him to think of me but it got me thinking, and after a while, I noticed my blood was starting to boil. It makes me angry that so many people today wrap themselves in the flag to proclaim their patriotism who have never thought to offer 10 seconds of their time to the service of their country, starting with one shithole former president who used his money and connections to dodge the whole thing.
He actually had the audacity to say once that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases was his Vietnam. And this man is idolized by millions who see him as the highest expression of American culture. Then there is George W. Bush, the man who wrangled a cushy no-show job with the military while he stayed as far away from Vietnam as he could get. Later, he too sat in the Offal Office where he says God spoke to him and told him to send tens of thousands of young Americans to have their arms and legs blown off in Iraq. When they got back, the politicians who cheered them on their way over there balked at the enormous expense of healing all those broken bodies.
Nobody cheered me when I went to Saigon in 1972. If I appeared in public in my Army uniform, I was spat on. When I came home, I hung my uniform in the closet until I discarded it years later. But I was far better off than most.
I never served in a rifle platoon parked on the side of a rice paddy. I didn’t come home in a body bag like my college roommate, who decided one day he wanted to join the Marines. He lasted just a few months as a newly minted lieutenant before his body was shredded by a “Bouncing Betty” land mine, a precursor to the IEDs other soldiers would encounter years later in Iraq and Afghanistan, He shielded several other Marines from the blast with his body. Talk about service to one’s country.
President Kennedy came up with a plan to allow young people who were against the war in Vietnam to serve their country in a different way. It was called the Peace Corps, and it did a lot of good for America’s image around the world. Those people also deserve a thank you for their service.
I really do not. I was, at best, a reluctant volunteer. Convinced there was no way to avoid the draft, I joined ROTC, hoping the Vietnam fever would burn itself out in 4 years. It did not.
The only options available to me in 1967 were law school or med school. I didn’t have the grades for medical school, so I went to law school, thinking the madness would be over in another 3 years. It was not.
Law school was just another way of being a draft dodger. Later, I got another short deferment to take the bar exam. After that, I was out of options, the war was still going on, and so I got to visit Saigon as a guest of my Uncle Sam.
When I watched the mob of thugs, lunatics, and madmen descend on our nation’s capitol on January 6, 2021, I was outraged. This is how these idiots thought to repay those Americans who died in the trenches in the Great War, on the beaches of Normandy, the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, or the rice paddies of Vietnam, believing they were keeping the world safe for democracy? Could they have been any more disrespectful to those heroes? Could they have done any more violence to the names chiseled into the granite on the Vietnam War Memorial next door?
War seems to be the only genetic trait that all humans share. We glorify it. We idealize those who fight. But at the same time, there is always a large segment of society that finds a way to shirk their responsibility to serve so they can stay behind and get rich while others suffer and die. One of the best movies ever made about the political expediency of war is called Breaker Morant, a film that turns an unblinking and pitiless lens on the ways in which the British sacrificed Australian soldiers during the Boer War. Its focus is narrow, but its message is universal. Those who serve are little more than cannon fodder, as was my college roommate, and so many hundreds of thousands of America’s finest young people over the decades and the centuries.
So I have a request. While I know the phrase “Thank you for your service” has become fashionable and may often even be heartfelt, it has also become a glib way of appearing to say something without having any skin in the game. On this Veterans Day, please, think about our soldiers charging ashore at Normandy. Think of the bullets ripping into their bodies as they laid down their lives for democracy — a concept that so many people today seem to loathe.
What right do you overfed, affluent jackasses have to dishonor them so egregiously? In what world do you swear allegiance to a man who mocks prisoners of war who were tortured for 5 long years while he was a serial sexual predator? How does that loathsome loser deserve your respect, but my former roommate who was eviscerated because he felt the need to serve his country does not?
Do you understand how infuriating it is to be so disrespectful to those who made your comfortable lifestyle possible? Take a few hours to read Shrapnel In The Heart by Laura Palmer. In that book, the author tells the stories of the families who were left behind after their husbands and sons were obliterated in Vietnam. These are people who served their country and by clamoring to tear the country down, you desecrate and dishonor them.
Shame on you! You are a disgrace to America and you disgust me. If you hate it here so much, please leave. There are plenty of countries that would welcome you — Russia, North Korea, Hungary, Azerbaijan, and Iran, to name but a few. Do me and all other veterans a favor. Gather up all your grievances, your petty jealousies, your racial hatreds, and take them with you when you go. America doesn’t need your garbage.
There is much to be done to complete America’s journey toward building a strong, inclusive society that honors all her citizens and those who have sacrificed so much for that dream. If you can’t lend a hand, be gone. There’s no place for you here.
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