ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CHILDREN THANK AND HONOR SOLDIERS
January 8, 2015
I was given cause to reflect on several wars when I passed by South Pointe Elementary School the day before my birthday this year and encountered schoolchildren greeting wounded soldiers kicking off a four-day Soldier’s Ride sponsored by the Wounded Warriors Project.
My memories of war are nowhere near as painful as the physical and psychological wounds suffered by our brave and courageous war veterans. Yet I am a product of World War II. My father and mother met at a theatre when her baby daughter reached over to pull on the brass buttons of my father’s uniform. Her husband had been killed on a dam project. She died of polio six months after I was born.
Although I have never been on a battlefield, I often imagined I was there when I was on the elementary school playground playing at war during the Korean “police action.”
My best friend’s dad, home from Korea, hung himself in the garage where we played, and his mother followed suit a few weeks later on. I did not understand.
Combat became my favorite television program. I ran away from home to Chicago for good at age thirteen, and someone gave me a copy of The Ugly American to read. By the time President Johnson declared the “police action” in Vietnam, I was well disposed to violence. Enter Dr. Leary.
A few years hence, I was a pacifist being tear-gassed in front of the Chicago armory, where communists were handing out pamphlets.
I attended demonstrations in Washington, went to the White House, and recommended that President Nixon read Moby Dick.
I was dead set against both Bush wars on Iraq, certain that they would backfire on the United States. I marched against the first Bush war in New York City as patriotic Americans rained bottles on our heads from the buildings above, and demonstrated against the second Bush war in Honolulu as observers yelled obscenities at us. By the way, Vietnam veterans were among the demonstrators.
I studied war for hours on end at the university, and I found no cause for war in books other than it is human nature to wage war to make peace, some say for the moral improvement of the race. Other animals wage war as well, and not for food, mates, or territory.
Now I am wary of pre-emptive wars. Yet a war waged to save millions from being murdered for nothing if they can be saved is a just war in my opinion. I would sacrifice my own life in a defensive war. Sometimes I wish I had been killed in war, such has been my history, which seems in retrospect to have been quite a mistake at every juncture.
I would never wish myself wounded, to survive only to be forgotten by my own country, to come home and be shortchanged by the nation I served. I am not one to hold the soldier responsible for the politicians’ mistakes, to spit on him when he returns. No, I like the children at South Pointe Elementary School thank and honor the men and women for serving our country, for if no one answered when called to duty because someone thought the cause might be wrong, there would be no country worth fighting for.
WAGING WAR TO MAKE PEACE by David Arthur Walters