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Pain All These Years

By Remy Benoit

I have searched for the words for this.

Once upon a time we fought a war.

Some believed we should.

Some believed we should not.

But we did and those who fought it still carry all the pain of it.

One man told me that he was just beginning to get his life in order when he was sent to fight it; when he stepped off a commercial plane into a war zone and that plane just couldn't get off the ground fast enough to take its other passengers to the places they needed to be, and the things they needed to do.

From the BBC Washington and Matthew Davis Veterans still feel Vietnam scars.

We know that the replacement system causes higher casualties. The "newbies" are green; they don't know the ropes, they don't have the experience of being trained with a group.

I regret that Private Slovik had to be a product of our replacement system. This was a cruel system, probably necessitated by the nature of the war, but it was cruel, nevertheless, and I never liked it. Men have a right to go into battle as members of a trained unit, flanked by friends and associates, and, if possible, led by leaders who have trained them and whom they have come to trust.
General Cota in a 1953 interview - after the execution of Private Eddie Slovik for desertion.

William Bradford Hui, The Execution of Private Slovik.

One of the Veterans talking about his fellow workers, not kids per se, wrote to me this week "I feel so out of place. These kids don't know their history, or were never taught in school." (Al Martinez - 25TH DIV 4/1/68 TO 3/31/69 DELTA CO 3/22 - Al would really like to hear from those of you with whom he served - click on Feedback and I will put you in touch )

War strips away the thin veneer of civilization.

It was said by some stations that feared fines from the FCC that Saving Private Ryan was too graphic. When we send our young to fight, they see the real graphics of war. Movies like the Green Berets do not show that.

As another Vietnam Veteran told me, "Evil is real; I have seen it."

The media has not been friendly to our Vietnam Veterans often, usually, portraying them in a negative light. We have not even begun to heal the wounds of that war.

From the BBC in Washington and Matt Frei Divisive war still haunts America.

We do not, for the most part, teach real history anymore being more content with the niceness of feel good history, of politically correct history. How can we relate to ourselves if we do not know who we have been, what we have done, what we have known?

The old wounds of Veterans are still open; new wounds are being made each and every day.

Someone wrote to me this morning saying, "...these guys need our prayers - thank God they are still alive that we can hold them and be with them and share life with them....."

Well, some of them are alive, so many not. And most of us are not holding them to our hearts.

A long time ago, Phil Ochs asked a question: Where were you in Chicago?

For the war, against the war, these are our Veterans. They still have pieces of their souls missing and they need us there for them, just as the new Veterans will.

Can you bring yourself to say Welcome Home?

Can you bring yourself to help them heal?

Or are you still "in Detroit" all these years later on so important an issue?

Words - well, these are from Loving and I shall leave you today to think about them. Hug a Veteran and say Thank You.

How, Why, and When?

How do we bear the pain of loves sacrificed to mud and mortars?
How do we bear the pain of generation after generation of brutality?
Why do we condone frozen death in trenches, fiery evisceration by artillery shells, terrorized dehumanizing in tiger cages?
How do we assent to the obscenity of life and love lost to raining bombs and chemicals?
Why do we allow the waste of war?
How do we go on?
How do we look at ourselves in the morning?
We don't.
We refuse to see, we institutionalize, forget broken fragments of our own sent home from battlefields.
How do we allow the waste of war?
We just do.
And we do it over
and over,
and over
Refusing to see.
Spending more for munitions than loving.
Allowing endless planning for war in our names,
instead of raising our voices,
using our hands,
our hard won knowledge
for peace.
Not saying as mothers
"This is not what we carried,
suckled him for."
Holding onto grudges whose roots
lie buried in the moss of history.
Instead of making each day a new day,
a new creation.
And we will,
until we learn better.
Until we say NO.
What will it take to move us?
Recall, that even as children
we were taught
to say
to poisoned


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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