And it’s one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it’s five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.
Lyrics – Country Joe and the Fish
I went to see that movie American Sniper last night. It was a rather sobering experience. But how much more sober can you get than stone cold? Who knows? If you haven’t heard about this movie it’s based on the biography of Chris Kyle, a sniper who did 4 tours in Iraq. He is known as the most lethal sniper in American History with 160 confirmed kills. He made it home alive and was murdered by a troubled veteran he was trying to help.
I’m not even going to go into the nasty debate about whether he was a hero or a coward. My opinion is that he was a soldier doing what he thought was the right thing to do to protect his family and country. He didn’t start the war – he just did what he had to do.
That being said, I’ve been pondering the whole war conundrum. I laid awake much of last night thinking about it. In a way we treat our returning warriors the same way we treat people with mental illness. We sweep it under the rug and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
Those caught up in the war machine seem have the same mental kinks as people who are mentally ill and/or have mental illness or substance abuse problems. “Oh this is just affecting us, no one else has to deal with it, and we’re handling it just fine.” Hogwash!
As I look back over my life I can see that war has tainted my entire life. I was in my mid-teens when the Vietnam War was going on. I faced the fear that if it continued for a few more years that my brothers would have to go. I was the oldest in my family and female, but my girlfriends had older brothers that were sent off to Vietnam. They came home in a box. One of those brothers was the first boy I ever kissed. He kissed me the night before he went off to boot camp.
During that era teenage trouble making was a death sentence if you were boy from a blue collar family. The judge gave them a choice “jail or Vietnam.” Stupid boys chose Nam. I would have much rather they went to jail, but I was a 14 year old girl, my say didn’t matter much then. It probably doesn’t matter much more now. I just have a wider audience.
After my girlfriends lost their brothers, we three musketeers decided to wear black arm bands to school. We got in all kinds of trouble for it. Being teen aged innocents we didn’t know we were protesting, we just knew that our guys died and we were sad and very angry. We had to stay after school for detention every day that we wore those arm bands. Funny thing was no one ever tried to confiscate them. If this happened in the present they probably would have them confiscated. Can’t wear or carry anything to school that might offend someone nowadays. I don’t remember how long we wore them and when we stopped either. How odd. We drifted apart, life goes on I guess.
Fast forward to when I was 18 years old. I fell in love with a Vietnam vet who was one of those who made it home in body but not in mind. My mother hated him and knew he was trouble. She finally told me to not talk to her until I was finished with him. She was right in a way. He was trouble because he was troubled. When we walked down the street he was constantly scanning and looking around at trees, roof tops, alleyways. I thought he was just unusually alert. What did I know about soldiers and PTSD? My dead friends don’t talk about that. 6 months later he committed suicide by cop. Meaning they tried to arrest him, he said “you’re not taking me alive” and boom he’s dead.
So at the tender age of 14 I learned that I was not invincible. People die because of other people’s decisions, shit happens. Should children have to learn that? I don’t know but there are children all over the world in war zones learning this every day. Are we better for it? I don’t think so. But that’s just my opinion among billions of others.