Friday's Weekend Column
Learning From The Elders
by James Glaser
Every time I sit down for a conversation with the "Greatest Generation," I learn that these men learned a lot by suffering through a war, "Suffering through the war" was the way one man described his years overseas. I had never heard it said that way, but is sounds like he had found a good way to describe combat.
In a war, you suffer along with your comrades. The enemy suffers and all of the people in the countries where the war is fought suffer. The Kings, Presidents, and Dictators who start wars, say that they suffer from all the responsibility they had to shoulder. That, while people are bringing them their coffee (hot) or making them a drink.
The leaders in any modern war seldom if ever see what suffering their war brings to the people. They are in Washington, or London listening to sterilized reports about progress being made. These leaders never see the horror of war unless they lose and then some commit suicide to get out of taking responsibility for all the lives lost.
We had this conversation after our annual Christmas Party. It is a fine affair and almost the whole Post membership comes. We talk about the guys we lost this year. It seems that we are having a funeral every couple of weeks and our numbers are dwindling. Every one agrees it would be great if we never had another war so our numbers would not grow. The Veterans of Foreign Wars is a organization the world would be better off not building up.
Some times you are surprised to hear about some guy that died. He might have been real quiet or very much into his church, but back in World War 2 or Korea he went through months and months of battle. Some guys never told anyone that they were "Airborne" and jumped behind German lines. One guy flew the "hump" in Burma and if the plane was too heavy they threw out the Chinese and saved the gear to lighten the load.
These guys have seen it all, but most only talk about the time not in combat, but when combat does come out their memories are like it happened yesterday. Fifty Seven years or more after the fact, their combat experiences are still with them almost every day. These guys gave this nation a lot more than the years on active duty. All Combat vets have.
To a man these men have a real love of America, but they don't trust those in Washington. They don't trust the President. Not because he is George Bush or because he is a Republican, heck most of these guys are Republicans. No, these guys don't trust any President because none of them are honest with the people. They all lie and play games. Truman lied about the A bomb saying we attacked a military target and it was a city. Some of these guys ran through the surf of a Pacific Island to have terrible battles with Japanese the government could have bypassed. They were told that the ships would be there to support them and after the landing the ships were gone and the wounded died on the beach.
America treated Korean Veterans just as bad as Vietnam Vets. These old guys are bitter and still mad at the lies that cost so many of their friends lives. Now they doubt what ever Washington says and worry for their grand kids. All of them agree that if given the truth they still would have fought, but that the lies cheapen many of the lives lost. Every man was ready to give his life for America, but thousands gave their lives for greed and that hurts
Like I said I learned a lot from these guys. America is worth dying for. America is a great country led by flawed men. America must be protected from those in Washington just as much as those abroad. Many told me never take what Washington says on face value, read and check out the facts.
It surprised me, but these men are well read and they do keep up on current events. They know what is in our Constitution and want to protect it. They want us to look out for the new guys in the service and not use them like they feel they were used.
Most important, I learned that these men have a real pride in their unselfish service to our nation in its hour of need, but like every combat vet I have met, that service leaves a bitter taste in ones mouth. Also I have learned all veterans have to live with the horrors of war, it is the price you pay for the combat.
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