|U.S. 23rd infantry. 37 mm gun in action. France, 1918.|
There's a scene in the movie, Born on the Fourth of July, that really sticks with me. It's early in the movie when Ron Kovic is a boy watching veterans in a Fourth of July parade. He stares into the eyes of an old man wearing his World War I uniform, a sad look on his face. I've always wondered what kind of life shattering experiences from youth must have haunted this man in his old age. There have been millions of people with such stories. PTSD wasn't invented after the Vietnam War. I'm sure it's existed since war began. Thousands of years since primitive man started fighting with sticks and stones. The weapons are now multiple times more potent and lethal. Young men and women a generation younger than me are now coming home irreparably damaged from war.
It's interesting that Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is also the birthday of one of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut. He was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. Vonnegut was imprisoned in an underground meat locker, which spared his life during people who survived the Allied fire bombing of the historic city of Dresden. During the tumultuous '60s, he would go on to incorporate the horrific event in his novel, Slaughter House Five.
I've thought about war a lot this year with it being the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the 100th anniversary of the first world war. I've read Cornelius Ryan's journalistic account of the D-Day invasion, The Longest Day and I hope to at least start reading Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August about the start of World War I.
It must have seemed like Armageddon.
Lately, I've been thinking about a quote from former President, Commander-in-Chief and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. It's something he said upon being awarded the Nobel Prize in 2002.
War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children.
I'm tired of seeing the world devastated by war, tired of seeing lives shattered and shortened. It's a crime that there are impoverished, homeless, jobless, drug addicted veterans in this country. They shouldn't be so removed. On the whole, Americans don't have enough skin in the game. War is a crime, a murderer. Hopefully, one day - I'm sure I'll never live to see it - America and the world will give it up.
I talked to a couple of Korean War veterans last week who recently went on the Kansas Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. They recalled crowds applauding them at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. A boy about 8-years-old and smiling from ear to ear eagerly shook their hands.
"I sure hope he never has to go to war," one of the old men said.