Thank You for Your Service
by James Glaser
That is what a returning Iraqi vet said to me last Friday after he learned that I was a combat vet too. I never really know what to say when somebody says that to me. To be honest nobody ever thanked me for my service until about twenty years after I left the Nam.
I wanted to say to him, "What are you really thanking me for?" You do know don't you, that the Vietnam War was a sham, and like your war, it was started with a lie?
I wanted to explain how the Vietnam War was started because the White House, under President Lyndon Baines Johnson, claimed that two of our navel ships came under attack by forces of the North Vietnamese Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin. That was the lie that got the Vietnam wars started.
I wanted tell him about James Stockdale, one of the most decorated officers in the history of the Navy. Stockdale won the Congressional Medal of Honor, four Silver Stars, and couple dozen other combat medals. He was shot down over North Vietnam, and was a POW in the Hanoi Hilton, but before that, he was the squadron commander of the pilots flying overhead during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident that started the war. Stockdale said. "I had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targetsthere were no PT boats there. . . . There was nothing there but black water and American fire power." Stockdale said his superiors ordered him to keep quiet about this.
So, I should have asked this vet if he was thanking me for being duped by Washington. I should have told him that the story in my war was that we were bringing peace and democracy to Vietnam. I then could have asked him if he had ever heard that before. I could then have explained that Vietnam is now a peaceful Communist country that we trade with, and back at the start of the war, Vietnam had an "evil" dictator named Ho Chi Minh, who was almost like the evil dictator that Iraq had in Saddam Hussein.
I knew these things would bum this guy out, as all he wanted to do was thank me like he thought he should. I did shake his hand and told him that I really hoped that years from now he would be able to look at his time in combat as doing something good for our country.
I don't know why I couldn't tell this guy these things. Maybe it was because he was so young and fresh back from the war, and I didn't want to destroy him like so many of my comrades were destroyed when they figured out the truth of their service to America. I really hope and pray that this young veteran will be better prepared than I was for the time when he finally realizes that he and those who served with him had been "had," much like those that I served with.
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