Within the past month, one of my students mentioned that when his grandfather got off the plane from Vietnam in his soldier’s uniform, somebody spit on him at the airport. That’s the kind of memory that lingers, even to the third generation.
In retrospect, most thoughtful people now agree that Vietnam was a pointless war, waged for political purposes. Many of us believe that, too, about Iraq. But thankfully, the mood of the country is now such that every serviceman or –woman is considered a hero and treated with respect.
Not all are really heroes, of course. A friend who earned his Purple Heart as a Marine in Vietnam once said to me about those he knew who had died, “Some died because they were brave, some because they were cowards, and others because they were stoned. Some just happened to be in the wrong place.”
No doubt the same may be said for today’s “fallen heroes,” but they all come home with the same flag draped over their coffin. Like the rest of us, some are more worthy than others, but who are we to say?
The mood of the country today is to salute the flag (not burn it), tear up during the National Anthem, and say thanks to the men and women who serve.
But let’s not forget that moods are emotions, and emotions are fickle. Let us resolve never again to confuse a soldier with the mission he or she is sent to carry out.