Publisher’s Note: This article was originally published at Ojijaak.com for Veteran’s Day. It is appropriate and highly recommended reading for Memorial Day weekend. It is republished here with permission.
Half a century ago, as today, and as in almost every generation, the United States of America sent her sons and daughters off to a foreign land to fight. Some did not come home, others came home broken, again as today. Some things never change, other things always change, a lot of things need to change.
Half a century ago, other sons and daughters of this nation opposed the war. Some acted upon their opposition by resisting a quaint custom that Americans once observed called Selective Service, or more commonly, the draft. Some left the country in order to evade the draft with impunity in their adopted homes. They chose.
On January 21, 1977, President Jimmy Carter granted a general amnesty to those young Americans who wished to return. There were no conditions, all was forgiven. Among some, the draft amnesty was not well-received, but we have moved on in the years since. We have new wars, new sons and daughters to send to fight them, and, unlike the war fought in Vietnam, Republic of, we have no draft. This is not to say that those who find themselves under fire in our new wars have gone to combat voluntarily, and, as we have seen, some do not come home, and others come home broken. Some things never change.
Returning warriors since those of the Vietnam War have been warmly greeted and thanked. This is as it should be. This is one of those things that needed to be changed.
November 11 is observed as Veterans’ Day. People who never saw a day of service in uniform will have a holiday, many with pay. Perhaps they will decorate their houses for the upcoming holidays or get an early start on shopping. Hell, they might even see a service person and say, “Thank you for your service.” They might even be sincere in their thanks.
I have a different idea. How about looking for one of those aging Baby Boomers who served in this country’s most unpopular war, that war that somehow allowed the American people to despise its young men and women who fought in it, and say not just “Thank you,” but maybe even, “I’m sorry this is so late in coming.” These men and women do not need a general amnesty; they need and they deserve respect.
It was one hell of a place. If some chose, others, most with no real choice in the matter, those “others” served.
Some served, others chose a different path, all suffered. To fallen comrades, and to all, Happy Veterans’ Day.