I hated the Viet Nam War. I feel very angry even today toward Robert MacNamara and the other minions who lied to us all about how the war was going and how it was being fought. Especially MacNamara, because in his memoir, before his death, he admitted that he lied, that he was wrong to keep pushing for more weapons and more soldiers, that the analysis and policy directives he offered to President Johnson was based on lies, that he was blinded by his hatred of communism and his pride, that he vilified war protestors, like me and many others, calling us traitors rather than seeing us as patriots trying to save our country from falseness and treachery such as his.
I did not hate and do not hate the soldiers who fought in Viet Nam, anymore than I hate today the service members who push the buttons that send the drones to bomb people in Afghanistan today. Or those who carry out hundreds of operations in an effort to prop up yet another corrupt regime.
Back then, I knew that some of the people fighting in Viet Nam were my age, some of them young men with whom I’d gone to school. One of them, I knew was Phillip Page. Phillip was a kind, gentle soul who always had a smile and quiet greeting for me. Sometimes I helped him with homework. I’m fairly sure that when some of the meaner boys taunted me as “Four Eyes” and “Professor,” it was Phillip who made them stop, responsible for the sudden silence behind me. Later on, in high school, when I was cuter but still smart, some of those boys wanted to date me. I wouldn’t give them the time of day, but Phillip and I always had a word or two for each other, though we never went out or even had class together. He was headed for trade school, I, for college.
So it was with shock and anger and sudden, piercing sorrow that I traced his name with my fingers on the Viet Nam memorial. I knew immediately why that long wall with his cool black surface was such a blessing. I still visit Phillip there every chance I get. Every time, I whisper that I am sorry I couldn’t save him. Every time, he reminds me that we can’t always save others, and it’s okay. He couldn’t save the people he tried to defend, either. But it’s right to try, in whatever way you can. Always,
Phillip died on June 16, 1969. I knew that date, but until today, I did not know the circumstances. A college friend sent me a link to the Virtual Wall, with it’s page and history for each soldier. It’s a blessing. On this July 4th, I pray my country will learn a better way than to send men and women off to die and be maimed in wars that almost never achieve their aims. And I remember that we must always try to save each other, because sometimes, we can. Thank you, Phillip.
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