A World War II vet told me something once that I have found to be true:
“If you walk into a VFW or American Legion Post bar and hear some guy telling everyone what a hero he was and how he fought the enemy so well, but at the end of the bar there sits a man alone not talking to anyone, chances are great that the silent man was the one who really saw the thick of combat, while the braggart never even saw action.”
I see the same thing today over and over, not in the bars, but on the Internet – veteran men, and it is almost always men, who wave the flag while telling us that we had to attack Iraq or that we had to attack Afghanistan for the safety of our country.
After a while, if you read what these men have to say, you will find that almost to a man they never even saw combat. In fact, most never made it to a war zone, or they served in peace time. But inexplicably that does not stop them from encouraging others to fight and die or be maimed.
Most men and women who have been in combat fall into two camps: those who have seen the horror of actual war and speak out against it, and those who have seen the same and are silent. Yes, there are always exceptions. Many career military men and women will expound on the necessity of military action, but you find that after retirement even these veterans seem to fall to one or the other of the camps, silent or anti-war.
Those veterans who expound the virtues of armed conflict seem to have some money involved. Either they have a book to push, or they are employed by the defense industry or by some news organization that is pro-war. It just galls me that men, who will even admit that they have no idea of what combat is like, will still push for more and more of it, and will disparage those of us who call for peace and bringing our troops home.
The odd thing is that as ravenous as these men seem to be for battle and blood, many of them could have signed up to serve in combat and fill that void in them that is so hell-bent on sending others, but perhaps they had better things to do. When I was in the Marines in Vietnam, I met men who had served in the Air Force or the Navy who, after their enlistment was up, joined the Marines to, as they said, “see if I had what it took.” I am sure the Army had its share of these veterans signing up for the same reason. So the option was always there for these war enthusiasts to truly get out there and “defend” our country, but they didn’t.
I can respect a war veteran saying he thinks we need this war or that war. I usually disagree with them, but I can see they have the experience to make their judgment even if I think it is flawed. But veterans who get some sort of thrill at having “served” and make sure everyone knows they “served”, but never made it to the war zone let alone to combat make me sick when they shout out a call to arms to our government and the general population.
They have no idea what they are talking about. They never had to put their friend or parts of their friend into a body bag. They never had to see dead mothers holding their dead child after their unit had opened fire on a village or town, and they were sent in to see what was left. They never had to smell the smells or hear the screams that are tragically common to every combat situation. They do not know whereof they speak.
Peace time veterans who wave the flag and push for war still see themselves in the crisp dress uniforms with shiny medals everyone who signs up gets to wear. They remember how people showed them respect because they wore the uniform – the uniform that others made honorable in combat.
Maybe that is some of the problem for them. Deep down inside, they know that they did not pay the price with their lives, their health, their bodies, their minds, their sleep, their vocation, and their families. They know that combat veterans pay a huge price that they didn’t. So maybe they feel that they have to sound the battle-cry to appear as much a part as their war-time comrades.
I wish more combat veterans would speak up, but I understand how hard that is for many. They just don’t want to talk or write about war, because it brings all their memories back to them. I do feel that it is right that most who do speak out are solidly against war and want us to start them only as a last resort. Almost all combat veterans know that when Washington prolongs a war, it is no longer in defense of our nation, but rather in defense of the profits all of our wars make for the defense industry.
I live in America and am grateful to be an American. I also believe everyone has the right to voice his opinion about whether or not we should go to war. However, I do wish those who advocate war, but have never actually been to war, would be honest enough to admit that they really don’t have any idea what they are talking about. Admit they don’t have any idea of what they are pushing our young troops into. Admit they are pushing them into something they never had the guts to do. But I guess that would take courage.