Belated Memorial Day

I’m a little late for Memorial Day this year, but, then again, nothing prevents us from memorializing our veterans on any day we wish to — at least not yet. I was prompted to write on this topic by reading a peripheral factoid, namely that the War in Afghanistan is now “the longest war the US has ever fought.” When I read that, I immediately thought that can’t be true and headed for my computer to check it out. As I suspected, the war in Afghanistan has lasted to date only about half as long as the Viet Nam War. Why the discrepancy? Why rewrite that piece of history? But I digress… That was merely what got me thinking about wars and our role in them.

When I was in the US Army, I was stationed for ten months in South Korea. It was eight years after the Korean War had stopped with a cease fire. No one had surrendered in that war. The opposing forces simply stopped shooting and the boundaries between North and South Korea remained where they were at the war’s outset.

In 1961 the term of the cease-fire ran out. Suddenly, even though I had a desk job, I was ordered along with our entire division to go on full alert — rifles, steel helmets, gas masks, the works. We stayed on alert for about twelve days, prepared in case the enemy decided to come over the mountain and start shooting again.

The enemy, thank goodness, didn’t come, and the border again remained where it had been since the “end” of the Korean War, and, in fact, where it had been since the end of WWII. In over half a century nothing had changed. (Makes one wonder about the efficacy of diplomacy which to me is mainly ritualized bribery and extortion.)

Our military has fought in many wars during its relatively brief history. Two of the biggest and costliest were the Korean War and the Viet Nam War. Those two wars along with a spate of incursions into Central America cost the country over 200,000 casualties: woundings and deaths along with all the grief and lost ambitions that go with them. During those conflicts we fought always against the same enemy: Communists. All that sacrifice by all those veterans and their families was to prevent the expansion of Communism.

Communism has plagued the world for a long time, and despite the disintegration of the Soviet Union, it still does. Overseas we still have Cuba. Venezuela is well down the Socialist road. Inroads are being made in Ecuador. And, most disturbing of all, we now have avowed Communists in key positions in our own government. On whatever day we choose to memorialize our fallen heroes and honor our veterans, let’s remember, too, whom they fought. Let’s not dishonor them by caving in to the very despotic ideology they sacrificed so much to defeat.

Dwight Boud ©2010

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