“Ain’t found a way to kill me yet...”
I will admit that I used to find Veteran’s Day troubling. Having grown up when I did, which was just a little too young to be part of the Vietnam War, but old enough to formulate an opinion on war...yet still an impressionable teenager, I was conflicted. We lost the war...but our soldiers did their damn level-best. But we lost.
And as such, in the years immediately following the end of hostilities, our collective national consciousness had to find someone to blame. And tragically, many blamed the soldiers. I adopted that mindset as well. And as a result, I wanted nothing to do with military service. My father even pitched it to me as I was graduating college – “You know, son, you could go into the Navy, come out of OCS as an officer, and retire in twenty years, at age 43.”
You might as well have suggested I run off and join the circus. Wasn’t happening.
As I grew older, I realized my anger was displaced. Those troops were put into a totally unwinnable quagmire. The real villains were the politicians. And, honestly, our society for how they were treated once they returned to the States. That’s why you see so much “Honor Our Troops” entreats...I believe it was guilt over how we treated the Vietnam Vets. But I was still conflicted – I couldn’t just swivel and unconditionally thank them for their service; there was a part of me that still thought, ‘Hey, you signed up for this gig.’
“Walking tall Machine Gun Man...They spit on me in my homeland...”
So I spent a lot of time trying to understand the American soldier, without judgment. I asked friends of mine who served what it was like. I turned to media to help me understand. And it was in this search that I came across perhaps the most poignant, horrifying, and accurate description of what it had to be like in those jungles.
“My buddy’s breathing his dying breath...Oh God please won’t you help me make it through...”
Jerry Cantrell is a member of the band Alice In Chains. He wrote the song Rooster in honor of his father, Jerry Cantrell, Sr., who served in Vietnam; ‘Rooster’ was his nickname. And the video, frankly, is hard to watch. But I insist that you do:
I am no longer conflicted. They were heroes. All of them.
Happy Veterans Day.