Who did we forget?

I was having an all too infrequent chat with my friend in Hollywood last night.  We caught up on the usual stuff about spouses and cats and work.  When we started talking about my therapy, our conversation took an interesting turn.  As you may or may not know – or even care, I play music for therapy: self prescribed.  I find that after a week of dealing in corporate America I desperately need a distraction and release: and this few hours on stage is what I really want to do.  So I play music in a “Biker Bar” in Cave Creek, Arizona on Friday and Saturday evenings.


Now about the interesting turn.  When I was telling my friend how comfortable I am working around these great people he told me a story about “The Hurt Locker” a movie I have yet to see.  His point is poignant and powerful.  He explained that this movie considers the plight of the recently retuning Middle East War veterans and how difficult it is to acclimate or reconnect with life in America after a visit to a war zone.  Anyone that has been in combat knows that the transition from war time to peacetime is monumental.  Fortunately for our young soldiers their contributions are welcomed and appreciated.  We are giving them the honor that they deserve and that many of us didn’t receive when we returned.


More about Brother Biker:  I will say that I have not met a Rider that I don’t like and respect.  Many of these people are veterans of Vietnam and our political humiliation at the hands of our government: More about that later.  These people are some of the nicest and caring and generous people I’ve ever met.  They accept me for who I am as I accept them.  There is no pretense, no intentional deception.  They are who they are.  My friends point about them is; they need the rush and excitement and challenge they received from combat and don’t get in America; so they chose an alternative lifestyle that provides this stimulus: riding a bike and finding camaraderie with like souls.  It certainly doesn’t make them bad just misunderstood and unappreciated.  These are the people that support our troupes and welcome them with open arms, not condemnation.  There are proud veterans that accept and appreciate the young soldier’s contributions and sacrifices.


Ask any Vietnam Veteran about his/her welcome home.  Outside of family and other vets, the welcome we received was less than cordial: in fact in many cases quite hostile.  Remember, the Anti-War protestors took out their rage on the military, not on the government.  We were baby killers and murderers, not heroes.  Maybe this is why so many Vietnam protestors turn out to welcome home the recent vets.  They feel remorse for the way they treated us.


There are tens of thousands of these forgotten people in this country.  They live in our neighborhoods.  Some live right next door: how lucky for you.  Many don’t want any attention, just respect.  Many have chosen not to care about convention and appearance.  They don’t care what you think and how you feel about them: they just want to be left alone.  They don’t carry on about their experiences in Vietnam: my 85 year old father still does not speak of his experiences in the Pacific – He is a Marine from WWII and Korea.


Vietnam Vets are our legacy from a war that was ill conceived and never fought to win.  It was the second political war we entered against a communist foe with no face and we were told had designs on world conquest even though that world consisted of two insignificant little counties half way around the world: South Korea and South Vietnam.  The first of these wars ended in a rousing truce with a division of the country at the 38th parallel.  The second of the military actions ended in our first defeat: Vietnam.  We pulled out with our tails between our legs as a result of pressure from the folk’s at home and totally moronic management by the Government.  The lesson here should be that our government can’t run the country effectively, how could they possibly run a war.  They are totally incompetent at managing this nation, and running a war is a completely different endeavor: but that didn’t stop them.  They charged headlong into the fray telling our Military leaders – you know the guys that fought the last two wars – how to do what they were trained to do; never mind the years of experience doing it.  Our soldiers from these two military actions came home to ambivalent or angry and aggressive welcomes: unfortunately tens of thousands never came home.  Some of those that did were never the same.  I know too many of them.  They are discarded victims of political ambitions and policies.  They were used, and kicked to the curb.  Our benevolent government established the Veterans Administration to care for these and other poor souls from previous war in an attempt to placate the injured and ease a guilty conscience.  If you want to see what the results, visit your local VA Hospital or VA home.  In fact, I encourage those that didn’t serve to see the results of our politically driven military interventions.  I think you need to see this for yourself.


So far we have been in many wars and the results are always the same: win, loose, or draw.  Someone always looses: those that actually fight the war.  We congratulate the Generals for their brilliant strategy.  We sing the praises of the President for his fortitude in seeing this through to an illogical political conclusion.  We hype the political gains in our media.  We extol the virtue of forcing democracy and civilization on the conquered country that was neither uncivilized nor in dire need of democratization: but we saved the world from… Something.  Let’s see now… who did we forget?


The hospitals, missions, recovery programs, parks, underpasses, abandoned buildings, and flop-houses are full of these forgotten heroes.  That rough looking guy on the motorcycle next to you at the stoplight may be one.  The gentleman panhandling on the street may have lost too many friends and too much of his himself to ever return to normal life.  The ragged looking man walking on the street mumbling to him self might have save dozens of his comrades lives.  That tattered woman in the park could be the nurse that saw too much carnage to ever offer care again.  She may have left the profession because of the wasted young lives she couldn’t save.


Choosing an alternate lifestyle for the release is not foreign to anyone.  Some people live vicariously through professional sport: deriving their thrills from the actions on the field.  Some find their release from a book or movie.  Some like me find their release in playing music and touching some one through a song or joke or even a handshake and a kind thank you for serving.


The next time you pass someone wearing that ribbon at the top of the page, stop and thank them for following orders, for securing our values, and for coming home.  Tell them that you appreciate their sacrifice and that you’re sorry for their losses.  Stop and think, and remember that these men and women did a service for this country regardless of your political bent; they did their duty to this country and sacrificed something so precious that they don’t even talk about it… 


They just go about their lives; quietly marching to a different drummer.