DASAV     Bibliography     Mayerson    

As of March 19, 2007:

The Hackenblog has moved to http://hackenblog.hackenbush.org/ or www.hackenblog.com.

Please update your links, thank you.
Hello Readers! If you're liking what you're reading here, you can help out with the webhosting bill with a donation, if you are so inclined. In addition to my eternal gratitude, you'll have the comfort of knowing I won't be spending it on frivolous things like food or the electric bill or something.

[Previous entry: "Dr. Krugman on Healthcare"] [Main Index] [Next entry: "Honored and Remembered"]

08/26/2004 Entry: ""We love our nation dearly, but oppose this terrible war.""

"The veterans who seem eager to go after John Kerry remind me of the guys who thought, and perhaps still think, that the war was a right and righteous undertaking, and ultimately winnable. But to say that we could have won the war is the same as saying that we didn't fill our hearts with enough hate. Remember: we were not pleasant people, down where the rubber met the road, so to speak, and the war was not a pleasant business. John Kerry wasn't the only veteran to come back from the war spiritually exhausted and morally outraged - ready, willing and able to denounce his own government for its conduct of the war. Well before the end of my tour in March 1968, most everyone around me knew the war to be a fool's errand, but if there was any antiwar sentiment it didn't get much more sophisticated than the vast and colorful repertoire of curses you cannot repeat in a family newspaper.

"But we knew what we saw, we knew what we did, and we knew what we had become. Soldiering, the downward path to wisdom to be sure. In 1971, when John Kerry sat before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the essence of his message was exact: many a mean thing was done, sir, from the Oval Office on down, and in the spirit of meanness. We love our nation dearly, but oppose this terrible war. Our country seems to have forfeited its moral authority, and that makes our hearts sore."
When Actions Speak Louder Than Medals, by Larry Heinemann, NYT Op/Ed, August 27, 2004

We love our nation dearly, but oppose this terrible war. Is just as true now as it ever was.

When Actions Speak Louder Than Medals
By LARRY HEINEMANN
Published: August 27, 2004

Chicago When I came back from Vietnam, I always thought that the next argument was going to be between those who went overseas and those who stayed at home. But it turns out that the big argument now is between those veterans who thought the war was right and those who didn't. And further, it is amazing to me that the argument should revolve around medals and Purple Hearts and honorable service.

The plain fact is that in Vietnam medals were handed out like popcorn, right down to the Good Conduct Medal and the Rifle Sharpshooter Badge, particularly among career-minded officers and NCO's. Ticket-punching lifers, we called them with all the derision that the phrase implies; they seemed more interested in tending their precious careers than anything else.

I know officers who were given the Bronze Star for simply being in country (the ultimate in merit badges). An Air Force pilot told me that his commanding officer suggested that he write himself up for a Distinguished Flying Cross on no particular account, and that he, the commander, would sign it. To his credit, my friend did not do so. By the same token, a writer friend of mine keeps his Bronze Star to prove to his children and grandchildren that despite what they may hear about Vietnam, he acted the way an adult is supposed to act, with compassion and grit, and that if he is not especially proud of his service in Vietnam, he's not ashamed of it, either.

Regardless of career ambitions, there were officers and NCO's who understood the unvarnished reality of the war, and made no bones about it. When I left Fort Knox, Ky., for Vietnam in 1967, the sergeant (a full-blood Navajo Indian) called me into his office and told me flat out, "Remember, Heinemann, this is not a white man's war." After I'd been in country seven or eight months, a lieutenant with a degree in history took over our platoon. He gathered us young sergeants around him and said that our job was to make sure that everyone got home in one piece. We told him that his was a very good plan and how could we help.

The awards for Purple Hearts were mostly initiated by the medical staff. A wound is hard to fake, and you didn't put in for a Purple Heart, it was given to you whether you wanted one or not, or deserved it. And anyone who went looking for a Purple Heart was called "John Wayne," and avoided like the plague.

The veterans who seem eager to go after John Kerry remind me of the guys who thought, and perhaps still think, that the war was a right and righteous undertaking, and ultimately winnable. But to say that we could have won the war is the same as saying that we didn't fill our hearts with enough hate. Remember: we were not pleasant people, down where the rubber met the road, so to speak, and the war was not a pleasant business. John Kerry wasn't the only veteran to come back from the war spiritually exhausted and morally outraged - ready, willing and able to denounce his own government for its conduct of the war. Well before the end of my tour in March 1968, most everyone around me knew the war to be a fool's errand, but if there was any antiwar sentiment it didn't get much more sophisticated than the vast and colorful repertoire of curses you cannot repeat in a family newspaper.

But we knew what we saw, we knew what we did, and we knew what we had become. Soldiering, the downward path to wisdom to be sure. In 1971, when John Kerry sat before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the essence of his message was exact: many a mean thing was done, sir, from the Oval Office on down, and in the spirit of meanness. We love our nation dearly, but oppose this terrible war. Our country seems to have forfeited its moral authority, and that makes our hearts sore.

And all these years later - the name-calling and nitpicking about wounds suffered and medals earned and honorable service aside - the important matter is that, when push came to shove, Lieutenant Kerry turned his boat around and drove back into a firefight to fetch an Army Green Beret out of the river. I know that if it had been me in the water, I would surely remember the man's name, the look on his face, and the reach of his arm for the rest of my life; I would be sure to tell my grandchildren about him.

Larry Heinemann is the author of "Paco's Story," which received the National Book Award, and a forthcoming memoir about his experiences in Vietnam.

 

 

 

Powered By Greymatter

Hello Readers! If you're still liking what you're reading here, you can help out with the webhosting bill with a donation, if you are so inclined. In addition to my eternal gratitude, you'll have the comfort of knowing I won't be spending it on frivolous things like food or the electric bill or something.

One of the best deals anywhere.


Donations to keep us going are very welome!

Donate towards our web hosting bill!

Our webhost, is a really good deal and is probably having a huge sale on something as we speak. If you're looking for webhosting, I recommend them very much.

BugMeNot.com for passwords to online sites.

Who links to me?

Updated: April 8, 2006

Reviews you can use at J LHLS Reviews

This is a page in a larger site called Hackenbush.org. Click here to go there.

© Copyright, Head Designs 2003
All rights reserved.


referer referrer referers referrers http_referer