Some will say I should have dedicated this book to the men and women of World War II. That thought did occur to me of course. Those service members, and the civilians who provided unflinching support for them, are remembered today as the “Greatest Generation.” I would not for a moment deny them that glory. But who remembers the forces who fought and died in Korea, or in small incursions all over the world where we have tried to play policemen, judge and jury. What about Vietnam? Does that sound jaded? I suppose it does. Who will remember the sacrifices of the maimed and dead from Desert Storm or the dozen years we spent in Iraq and Afghanistan? We need to never forget them either, but this is dedicated to my generation. Already history is burying their memories.
There is a saying that “Violence is never the answer, until it is the only answer.” Somehow we forget, that after the flag waving and the bands playing, that some people are bereft of loved ones or are left to care for permanently disabled veterans, husbands, wives, or children.
I was one of the lucky ones and my limited time in combat left me unwounded, physically and spiritually. Some of my classmates came home bodily in one piece, mentally fragmented, and several of them committed suicide years later.
“We, the U.S. have lost over 158,000 American lives to the Vietnam war and that count is still rising.
Approx. 58,000 in Vietnam. 100,000 or more to suicide and most of those occurred after the men came home.”
Over 100,000 US Vietnam Vet Suicides To Date! (rense.com)
For many the war never ends. I was nineteen when I went over, many men were even younger. That’s an impressionable age, especially for a young citizenry who were far removed from the horrors of World War Two. I remember one man in our bootcamp company who had never been out of the mountains of West Virginia. He was a giant of a man who fainted flat of his face when he was confronted with a needle. He wore red flannels with the flap in the back. He could not read nor write. How did some unscrupulous recruiter get him inducted? Did the recruiter get a bonus based on providing live bodies?
I think we were all glad to see the Hillbilly sent home. While we, were left to silently ponder our own fates.
One of the greatest thinkers on war postulated that: "War therefore is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will."
-Carl Von Clausewitz.
I wonder if Clausewitz ever considered the violence enacted against the populace by its own government to compel them to fight and kill in a foreign land, people whom they had no reason to hate, to achieve some unholy will.
It has also been said that “War is politics by other means.” Funny how that works out. We in the US have a bi-cameral form of Government. Conveniently one body will start wars and the other end them, at the appropriate time. Then they vigorously blame each other thus preventing the general population from seeing they have been duped, and prevent them from rising up in indignation against the war mongers. These are "proxy wars" fought away from home where the indigent peoples are sacrificed for the "greater good" of democracy, or socialism, communism, what ever name you recognize it by.
I have been a collector of edged weapons of war all my life. I have also been an opponent to war, generally believing that disputes should be resolved mano-a-mano, sparing the thousands of bloodied innocents. We reward the engineers of weapons of mass destruction and the generals who lead the lambs to slaughter. It ought to be the other way round, with crusty, ribbon bedecked, Generals dying for their righteous causes and rosy cheeked lads asleep in their beds, dreaming of fair maidens.
I grew up in a military family, the eldest son of a US Army colonel. He was the consummate warrior who died early, not from acts of war, but the chemistry of Agent Orange. He was nearly immortal on the battlefield and loathed the waste of soldiers under his parental watch. So, included in the casualties of my generation’s war, I must count my father, Colonel David Wm. Decker. What’s not to like about war? Finally, to quote poet Allen Ginsberg; “War is good business, invest your son.”
Allen Ginsberg, The Fall of America: Poems of These States 1965-1971