For those of us who have no military background, it is hard to imagine what it’s like for soldiers who experience war first hand. Growing up during the Vietnam War, we watched the horrendous videos on the evening news. I had a hard time understanding the protests and the hate that was directed at the men and women who served then—just as I struggle with the level of hate directed towards one another in our society today.
All this to say to all veterans and current military that your sacrifice is appreciated and highly esteemed. On this Memorial Day may we remember those who served and never forget those who gave their life for the cause of freedom.
One movie that shook me to the core is We Were Soldiers based on the book of the same title by the late Lt. General Hal Moore and journalist Joseph Galloway. General Moore was the commanding officer and Galloway the embedded reporter, of the 7th Cavalry in the 34-day campaign in the Ia Drang Valley of South Vietnam in November 1965. The following excerpt is from the book’s Preface and it’s printed here in tribute to all those who served:
*We were the children of the 1950s and John F. Kennedy’s young stalwarts of the early 1960s. He told the world that Americans would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship” in the defense of freedom. We were the down payment on that costly contract, but the man who signed it was not there when we fulfilled his promise. John F. Kennedy waited for us on a hill in Arlington National Cemetery, and in time we came by the thousands to fill those slopes with our white marble markers and to ask on the murmur of the wind if that was truly the future he had envisioned for us…
Many of our countrymen came to hate the war we fought. Those who hated it the most—the professionally sensitive—were not, in the end, sensitive enough to differentiate between the war and the soldiers who had been ordered to fight it. They hated us as well, and we went to ground in the cross fire, as we had learned in the jungles.
In time our battles were forgotten, our sacrifices were discounted, and both our sanity and our suitability for life in polite American society were publicly questioned. Our young-old faces, chiseled and gaunt from the fever and the heat and the sleepless nights, now stare back at us, lost and damned strangers, frozen in yellowing snapshots packed away in cardboard boxes with our medals and ribbons.
We rebuilt our lives, found jobs or professions, married, raised families and waited patiently for America to come to its senses. As the years passed we searched each other out and found that the half-remembered pride of service was shared by those who had shared everything else with us. With them and only with them could we talk about what had really happened over there—what we had seen, what we had done, what we had survived…We Were Soldiers Once…and Young.
It’s my hope that everyone takes a few moments of gratitude during this Memorial holiday. American Legion Post #86 will hold a service at the Heber Cemetery Memorial Day at 10:15 a.m.
In memory of Pappy Watmore.
*Source: We Were Soldiers Once…and Young; Copyright©1992 by Lt. General H. G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway; Published by The Random House Publishing Group