Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day

In 1968, Glenn walked into the high school building.

That was before security systems.

It was even before the now ubiquitous decal on school doors, "Visitors must sign in at the office."

He just walked right in and went from class to class saying "hi."

People used to do that all the time in 1968. Glenn had just gotten back from Vietnam and was spending a few days in his hometown before heading back for another tour of duty.

For those of you too young to know, 1968 was a lousy year. Martin was shot and killed. Bobby was shot and killed. Riots were in the cities. Our high school, like many others in the nation, was about to be integrated for the first time and tensions were high. North Koreans captured the US ship, Pueblo. There was the Tet Offensive. Remember the photo of a South Vietnamese shoting a prisoner in the head -- 1968. US ground troops in Vietnam masacred over 500 men, women and infants in My Lai during a 3 hour period until US fliers stopped them. The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. Nixon was re-elected.

The only good thing that seemed to happen was the successful flight of Apollo 8. There is a scene in Tom Hanks' HBO series "From Earth To The Moon," that mentions someone wrote a letter to NASA with the words, "You saved 1968."

You had to have been alive in 1968 to know what that would have meant.

So in March, 1968, Glenn came into the classroom.

He was a hero to us all, and not just because he got us off of the subject of Algebra. He was a soldier and he was from our home town. He had done his duty and we were proud of him. The fact that he had fought in Vietnam didn't matter. I don't remember ever having met a single person who supported that war, many were vocally and demonstratively opposed to that war.

The fact that everyone who greeted Glenn with love, honor and respect was also opposed to that war, taught me that Veterans' Day is not about supporting or honoring war. It is about supporting those who do what their nations asked of them.

There are stories of Vietnam vets coming home and being spat upon during those years. I never saw that -- perhaps the South is just a different culture. I've talked with Vietnam Veterans, and I know it happened to some, but not all.

I am strongly opposed to this present war we are fighting in Iraq. I think it is wrong and I think we are in a deep mess and will be for years to come. But come Sunday, I will ask Veterans to stand and be recognized, and then lead a prayer for those who served their nation, adding a special prayer for those who are serving right now.


Blogger Maryellen said...

i don't think i was ever much of a patriotic person, and i was very much alive and aware in 1968. i think war is hell. but i also think it is an unfortunate fact of life. i don't think our pastor will even mention veterans day, he doesn't do things like that, so i will take this chance to say Amen to your prayer!

5:30 PM  
Blogger HeyJules said...

Our church opened with this on Sunday. Had everyone who ever served, who was married to, related to, parents of, etc...had them ALL stand up and be recognized. We all gave them a standing ovation, despite how we feel about this (or any other war) and then we had a long, silent prayer for their safety.

Just another reason why I love my church.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Lorna said...

people must have told you before, but you are an awesome writer!

This blessed me so much!

(and yeah I'm old enough to remember 68 (I was 9) but in europe it is at least partly remembered for this

'Lenin wake up, Brezhnev has gone mad.'

(This was one of the slogans chanted on the street of Prague 30 years ago as Russian and Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia.)

Oh and London Bridge was sold that year too, (to an American it's now in Arizona I believe) Rumour had it that he thought he had bought Tower Bridge (which is the pretty bridge near the tower of London- and the only one that opens - to allow taller ships to pass up the Thames)

3:08 AM  

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