Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

This is probably the most that I have ever reflected upon Memorial Day. I watched The 2009 National Memorial Day Concert at the U.S. Capitol, on PBS, and I watched some of the National Cemetery program on PBS. I later watched a few minutes about Viet Nam and the remembrance of a Marine camerman who was killed in "The Nam". That was some powerful stuff.
The most poignant thing from the concert was the sergeant who came home with severe brain trauma and is looked after, almost continuously and constantly by his mother and sister. He was at the concert, in a wheel chair almost rigid from the injury, looking very well kept. He has a major concavity on the left side of his cranium where his left brain once was. Having worked with severely head injured patients, it seems pretty obvious that after 3 years he will not progress much if any. The mother continues to give her all to honor and care for her son. These are among the people who make the "Ultimate Sacrifice" for their country. Death is also Ultimate but it is sudden and complete. The survivors have the choice of moving on. That mom does not. Each family member will sacrifice for the rest of his/her life. Death can be adjusted to relatively quickly compared to these types of injuries. Quadraplegia should be added to this category. It tears my heart out to imagine what they must go through. They called it a miracle that he lived. I am not so sure but that is not for me to judge, for that family.

Seeing the Viet Nam pictures brought back the capricious nature of the draft and the military. I was protected from the war by being the exact perfect age, since I had an ROTC scholarship and deferment. I changed my major late in the program and got an extra 5th year. That was because of my inability to arrive at a decision for a profession. If there was any ulterior motive it was very deeply subconcious. We all thought the war would last forever.

Rick Huttie, who lived on my wing during summer school in 1966, got some bad grades and was drafted. I doubt that he had much direction in college either but he let it go too far. He was a really good golfer who hit like Tiger Woods, in my mind. I took golf at summer school, for my phys. ed. requirement. I had a canvas bag with the odd irons and one wood. Rick actually played golf, with me, probably because there were no others. I think we had some good times. When visiting Washington, D.C. in 1988 I looked up his name on that beautiful horrible wall.

I have always wished that I had gone to Viet Nam so that I would know a little about war, the way it really is. Sounds very silly but Viet Nam is hardly more than an historical fact to me. I served from June 1970 - November 1976. Infantry officer, Airborne and Ranger Schools and I became a CH-47 helicopter pilot. It was great training and I am very proud but any one of those things made me as ready as any one else to go. Naturally, I wanted to come back alive and healthy so my wish was half granted and for that I am thankful. I had a strong sense of duty but by the time college was over, volunteering was the only way I could have gone. By 1970 the reason to serve in combat had lost its mojo. Just 1 month before I signed in to active duty at Ft. Benning, GA, Kent State occurred. The instructors for my infantry training made fun of the dead students at Kent State. I did not understand because I had just come from a college. My drive to do my duty had subsided and I was afraid, just a bit.

Now, war seems one of the most stupid of human endeavors. I hate conflict of almost any kind, to tell you the truth. It is ugly, whether it be war or simple family conflict. Talking and listening could solve almost anything.

I still wish that I had gone to Viet Nam.

Peter C.

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