Thursday, May 07, 2009

Vietnam – Part 3, Perception

The Internet came to my house about 1996 and one of the first things I did with it was to dig into my family history. For the past century or so, all we knew of our ancestors was that they were farmers who lived in a couple of Southern states and their lines were originally from the Carolinas. We were sophisticated city folk and saw not too much of interest in some Southern farmers. So the old ones stayed buried and we, the new ones, pressed on.

My first question of the then new Google search engine was to ask who were the two other names on my 3rd great grandfather Jim’s grave marker. Grandpa Jim’s marker simply bore his name, named the two others, one a company commander and the other, a regiment commander, all followed by the notation: “Rev War.”

As 9-11 demonstrated, there has never been a shortage of those who, if given the opportunity, would take or destroy what we have. Although we knew from family tradition that grandpa Jim had served during the Revolutionary War, we knew none of the details. But the ability to easily research those other two names through the Internet revealed a rich story of a 15-year old youngster trekking the wilderness as part of a company of men from the western Virginia frontier settlements.Curiosity about the service of a Confederate great grandfather, a grandfather who served in WWI, and finally the fantastic story of my father’s service over occupied Europe in WWII followed. The latter story is something I thought I knew well, but there was a tremendous amount of detail that my father never told. After pondering all this new-found heritage, it struck me that Patton touched a notion accurately in his 1922 poem, 

Through A Glass, Darkly,

So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.

As it was with all the others before me, Vietnam service was just the most recent in a continuing tradition of service to the ideals of freedom and country—whether it was worth the cost will long be debated…but the debate changes nothing that has happened. People can take issue with this thought, but their arguments matter little in the larger sweep of history.What does matter is that until the United States of America was established, in all of human history there was never before a place on this earth where common men could own property and live in peace, relatively free of tyranny.

Franklin and the other Founding Fathers knew the fight to preserve those freedoms is an ongoing fight—their own words clearly express that belief.
I look at vintage pictures of old soldiers differently these days. Now, I see myself in their faces. 

As the noted Civil War historian, Bruce Catton wrote, “once, ages ago, they had been everywhere, and seen everything, and nothing that happened to them thereafter meant anything much. All that was real had taken place when they were young.”

United Confederate Veterans - 1917



Anonymous said...

Wow Gus that VN reflection is good.

I did not play football or even checkers anytime through school. My first dance was at a class event -- just past 65th birthday...a big deal it was to me too. I worked after school the entire public school years. That and Coach Graves good teachings (PE only--grins)...I had the strength and initiative to dodge the right direction almost every time. Oh, and the several TM Army schools. I spoke Vietnamese best of our group toting an M16, it was even with no accent. We were on the move unmercifully, but I witnessed civilians’ tears, love and gratitude for our being there. Though the plight of civilians in a war zone is a heart breaker.

It would seem to me I was last in our class. And from the bottom of the class, I'm giving my highest regard to any and all at the 65th reunion. Cheers (grateful for Marcia), I had a blast. Special thanks to Suzanne, Pat, James and their spouses...wonderful they are. Super of Coach Graves to come.

It hurt (s) seeing that memorial of our lost classmates.

Hope everyone has had as good a life as mine. There was sense of humor...pain, regrets, slow and fast spots, hard learned events, creativity and rarely used sitting chairs. The absolute luckiest guy to my knowledge. Only one wife...imagine! My dogs follow me around the farm without being called, and my wonderful daughters come to see me on Sunday's. My service took 'a while in coming home', but I've had a much better life than Senators who misspoke about their service. BLUEGUNNER

Gus said...

Thanks for your kind words and for your service, brother. Adios.