Christmas of another time!


As I think about the spirit and meaning of Christmas, I think about those Christmas past when I was in the Corps, especially the first two. I can’t help but wonder at the difference between now and that time during Vietnam.

I had joined the Corps as a fulfillment of a lifelong dream. When I got to bootcamp I was so shocked at the whole experience. This was not like the “Lt.!” [lol] But in the idealism of my youth, I over came my shock and quickly got into the spirit of things. The day I got my emblems, Graduation Day, was the proudest of my life. No other experience , except the birth of my two children, has given me the sense of personal achievement I felt that day or the next four years.

Then I went to San Diego for my training in Ground Radio Repair. San Diego will always have a special place in my heart. While I was there, I experienced many life changing events. Two were the most momentous events of my life up that moment in time. I met the love of my life and lost the idealism of youth.

I lost the love of my life as much to the war as to the fact that we met at the wrong time in both our lives. When I say I lost him to the war, I don’t mean he was killed. I mean I lost him to the effects that war has on one. War does something to soldiers.

A part of them dies. How each soldier handles that loss has as much to do with the support these soldiers have at home as it does to their personal character.

As more and more pictures of that war appeared in the media, more and more Americans took away their support and began their protests. Thousands protested in the streets. Many burned American flags. Many young men burned their draft cards. Many young men went to Canada to avoid the draft. All were offered the chance to receive amnesty later. Only a few came back home. The scars were too deep and many had gone on with their lives.

When our troops returned, they did not come home to a grateful nation. They came home to race riots. They came home to be called baby killers. They came home to be spit on and see that some of their fellow troops were among the ones who called them these horrible names. One of the most outspoken of these men later ran for President as a War Hero!

There were atrocities committed by a very small few of our men. I knew of one incident personally. But most of these atrocities were not deliberate. The young man I knew was forever affected by what he and the rest of his squad had done. He killed several men, women, and children out of fear and the basic instinct of survival. You see, the week before his buddy and the rest of the squad were in a village checking for the enemy.

As always happened when they entered a village, a bunch of “children” came running up to greet them asking for candy as they reached into their pockets and bags for something to offer to trade. As my friend reached into his pocket for candy bars for the kids, one child pulled a grenade out of his bag and pulled the “pin.” My friend’s buddy was killed along with the child and many other civilians and soldiers. My friend’s buddy was due to go home in two days.

The next week my friend’s squad entered a village. As usual all these kids came running up to them. My buddy and his men ordered all the kids and civilians to keep their hands out in the open. They asked them to stand still long enough for them to make sure there were no suicide bombers in the crowd. One child refused to stop. As he reached into his bag, my friend and his buddies kept yelling at them all to stand still and hold their hands up in the air. But the young boy kept on reaching and the squad opened fire.

They later determined the young boy was merely looking for something to trade.

My friend was never able to get over this event. He could not forget what he and his men had done. He hated the way he was treated back home. But, he hated himself more for what he had done. All he talked about was going back to Vietnam. He wanted to do his part to help end a war where the enemy used children to do its fighting. I can’t help but wonder now, as I did then, if he didn’t also harbor the wish to go back so he could also give up a life that was forever scarred by the war and what it had done to him. He went back to Vietnam. I never saw him again. I never saw any of the young men who went to Vietnam from San Diego again. Years later as I looked at the “Wall” built in their honor, I read the names and wondered how many of those names I used to know but could not remember now!

The man who turned out to be the love of my life had served multiple tours in Vietnam. Each time had came home, he had a harder time readjusting to life at home. It ruined his marriage. I met him afterwards, but he was still grieving the loss of his previous marriage. He was also trying to come to grips with his stateside life after having been in war. Being so young and idealistic, I lacked the knowledge and experience that would have warned me to back off and move cautiously. I put my whole, innocent heart into the relationship and got it broken. About a year later we got back in touch and talked about what had happened.

We renewed our relationship. We planned to marry. But I had to go to Fort Monmouth for school first. When I got back we would marry. But while I was away at school, I found I had changed. I still loved him. But I found my heart was no longer trusting like before. I never wrote to him. I was afraid. When I finally got back to Quantico, I still didn’t write or call him. As time passed I wondered why he didn’t come for me. Then I decided I had done the right thing. If he really loved me, he would have come to me. But I never forgot him. Years later, after I married, I looked up his family in his home town and found them. I got his number and called him. I told him what had happened and why. He told me he had tried to find me and had been very upset. He asked me if I could imagine what it had been like for him to have me just stop writing after all our plans and not be able to find out what happened to me. To this day he remains a special person to me. He is now happily remarried and retired living not too far from me. We are no longer in contact. It took me twenty years to resolve our relationship and put it in its proper place in the memories of my heart.

I also remembered the assembly line movement of soldiers that went through bootcamp at San Diego. Young men, mostly drafted, funneled through bootcamp and then some to additional schools for further training, and others shipped directly to advanced training and then to Vietnam. Thousands of men passed through the gates of San Diego to go fight a war the public did not support.

The war had become a war of politicians and greedy businesses that were serving political ambitions or filing their pockets with the deaths of our young men.

Vietnam was a civil war. But we didn’t know it at the time. But it was also part of unresolved issues from World Wars I and II. At the end of both those wars, the world was so anxious to get the wars over with, they made many mistakes we are all paying for now. They divided up the middle east without regard to cultural and religious considerations. The created countries and boundaries the same way in both wars. In the first one they didn’t even consider the chaos in the areas surrounding Vietnam that important in the grand scheme of things. Both of the regions involved countries that were remnants of the imperialist empires of England and France. In the middle east, the oil reserves of Iraq were divided between England, France, The Netherlands, and the US and an oil company, with none of the oil or its profits going to Iraq. This didn’t change until 1958. France and England divided up the areas into “protectorates” and split up Palestine to create Israel.

They left thousands of Palestinians as refugees. In Indo-China Mao remembered the way the US had backed out their support at the last minute and let the Japanese conquer them and kill thousands. He never forgot that betrayal. Vietnam was as much a result of our betrayal of China as it was the spread of Communism. They divided up of nations and placed them under England and France in secret treaty agreements between the two in the middle east that further destabilized the middle east.

So you see, politics, self interests, and the fear of another war led to our world creating an environment where war was the only alternative that could result. They caused what they aimed to prevent.

It is time that the major powers of the world fix the mess they caused with their greed and fears. France needs to get off its pious posterior and begin to take a responsible role in helping to fix what it helped cause. It needs to own up to it’s part in the “food for oil” scandal as do all the participants. France, England, the US, Russia, and the other major countries need to work together and help the middle east become stable. They “all” need to start helping those countries become democratic nations ruled by their own people. They need to help them become stable and self determining. They also need to let them, once they are stable, handle their own resources.
It’s time to let treaties and negotiations become the way of things instead of half hearted efforts with the end result being the self serving enslavement of smaller countries and nations for their resources. The major powers in the world created this situation. It is their responsibility and obligation to work “together” in good faith to fix the mess they have made. There must be no more “secret” treaties. If we want the Middle Eastern Nations to trust us we must put everything out in the open. We must own up the past mistakes. We must show these people that we are sincere this time and deeply regret that we have pillaged them in the past.

The UN needs to get off it’s complacent collective ass and start doing what it was chartered to do, help build and maintain world peace through treaties and negotiations. What we all do now will determine if our world has a chance for world peace or will put the world into a spiral of world war again. This bull crap of winning the hearts and minds of Iraqi or other middle eastern countries is just that, bull crap. We need to earn their respect if it is not too late by fixing the mess we created. We must be willing to show we are in it for the long haul, and won’t back out when the going gets tough. We need to invite the representatives of all these nations to the UN to meet with the representatives of the full body of members and openly discuss plans to fix the mess we are in now. Meanwhile we must not ignore the terrorist threat caused by past failures. I believe this can be done. I don’t believe it will be easy. Eating “crow” is never easy, nor is forgiveness. The media must start becoming more responsible. It needs to report more fairly what is happening. It needs to report the “progress and accomplishments” of the coalition and the Iraqi people as well as the failures. The media needs to return to its role as the public conscience instead of continuing to act in the role of the food the flame as it now conducts itself.

These are my thoughts and opinions for what they are worth. I realize I have gotten caught up in the moment and slightly off target from my intended posting. But, I find often I need to just start writing my thoughts in order for them to start coming together.

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~ by devildog6771 on December 25, 2004.

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