Emerging From The Fog Of Apathy

Our family moved to Tampa, FL around 1967. During those days I was not into watching television too much. I mainly wanted to go outside and play with my friends or just hang out with them. During the 60s, the world and our society was in turmoil...there was a lot going on. There was the Vietnam War, there were war protests, the hippy movement, free love and the sexual revolution, drug usage, Woodstock, counter cultural values, psychedelic rock music, the continuation of the American Civil Rights Movement..just a lot of upheaval and changes in our society during this time period. For some reason, my friends and I did not really talk about it at all. We just went about our business with our long hair, heavy metal music...doing our own thing. We seemed to have insulated ourselves from the goings on of the outside world, especially where the war was concerned and we distanced ourselves from our parents and adults in general. We were discontented and disconnected from the realities of life....angry at everyone and everything. Maybe what we saw on a daily basis bent us toward a degree of apathy, about what was going on in our world. Upon returning home for dinner after being out with friends, I would stop by the television and briefly watch the news. Each and every time, I saw updated news reports on the war in Vietnam. At my age during this time period, I had no idea where Vietnam was nor what the war was all about....what I did know was that men, just a few years older than me, were in a far off land getting injured or dying. This was drummed into my head each night, upon entering my house for dinner, I would see numbers being displayed on the television screen ...... ...KIA...MIA....Killed In Action....Missing in Action. Of course there were some sterilized video of the war shown on the TV but what I kept going back to were the numbers...day in and day out...again and again....at all hours day and night and even on weekends. Looking back I think that maybe I had become desensitized to what I was seeing possibly because of the number of times that I was seeing it. It happening to someone else and was going on somewhere else, far away from my cocooned life. That all changed on a Summer day, when a friend of mine that lived one street over from me, told me that his brother had just returned from Vietnam. My friend asked me if I wanted to go over and see him. I said sure and we headed over to his house. I wasn't sure what to expect because the war was still going on and I had never met anyone who had been in the war. After knocking on the bedroom door we entered it. The first things that I noticed was how dark the room was...shades drawn down tight with very little light coming in. A young man, probably 7 years older than me, was leaning back on the bed. He was dressed in military fatigues and they appeared to have been worn for many days straight. This young man looked like he was so much older than he actually was. He did not really say much to either his brother or to me. I was afraid to ask him any questions. My friend went to a table that was in the room and began to show me some items...war memorabilia that his brother had brought home from the war. I don't remember a thing about this veteran, not his face, not anything that he might have said, nor anything else about him other than he was wearing worn out fatigues and one of the items that he had brought home. My friend handed me a grenade that his brother had brought home as a memento. This grenade had the "guts" taken out of it, so it was mainly an empty grenade. The table was full of assorted military items but it is that grenade that sticks with me to this day. After visiting for just a few minutes, my friend and I left. As we were walking around outside, I told my friend that his brother did not talk much. My friend told me that his brother was different since he came back from the war. After meeting my friends brother, the meaning and the reality of those numbers that i had seen on television began to make sense and hit me hard. I then started to pay much more attention to what was going on with the war and to those who returned. Many soldiers returned to a society that shunned them and to a Veterans medical benefit system that made it very difficult to obtain the help that they needed. In 1974, at the age of 18, I enlisted in the US Army. Because of the date that I enlisted, I was considered to be a Vietnam Era Veteran. I have never been comfortable with that designation....I did NOT earn the right to have that designation. Others made the sacrifice and earned the right to be called a Vietnam Era Veteran but I was not one of them. I spent about 7 years in the military and decided that it was not for me. I was honorably discharged in 1981. A couple of years after I got out of the military , I had the opportunity to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. The sight of the dark black granite walls with over 58,000 names etched in the marble can be very emotional thing. I saw uniformed veterans there touching the wall where the etched names of their friend and fellow soldier were and others just taking in the enormity of what lay in front of them. Some trying to grasp the meaning of it all. You could see it on their faces and in the tears that rolled down their cheeks. Like I said...it was a very emotional sight. Some were still wearing their military issued jackets from a bye gone war. Many seemed to still be dealing with the images, the sounds, the cries, the smells and everything that encompasses a war. At least that was my impression of what I saw. There were flower arrangements or even a single flower resting against the black granite wall itself. There were 58,000+ names of those that were either KIA or MIA during the Vietnam War listed on the wall.....each etched name representing more than just letters or a name on a wall...they were the father to a child, the husband to a wife, a mothers son, a friend to others. Real people who lived real lives and who made the ultimate sacrifice. And then there were the thousands of soldiers that returned home with injuries. Some that could and some that could not been seen. Whether you believed in the reason for the war or not, it does not diminish the fact that all of these soldiers did what were asked of them, made sacrifices in their lives and with their lives...they have earned our respect and honor. And for those who returned, they have also earned the full benefits that the government promised them and owe to them. For those that did return home and those that did not make it back....I want to say...Thank You and I Am Sorry.

And now, we once again have our troops on foreign soil doing their jobs as soldiers are expected to do. Upon the return home of these soldiers, I truly hope that as a society we have learned something from the wars and conflicts in our past and how we treat those returning home. I know that I have.

For more information about the Vietnam War, please click on the below link:
http://www.landscaper.net/timelin.htm#Participants%20and%20Casualties

28 comments:

~Thought's By Dena~ said...

this was extremely touching..I hope that everyone that reads it lets it touch their heart.

Helena said...

The war (Winter War) still affects people in Finland even though the people who experienced it are almost all dead now (like my grandfather - should post some of his war photos at some point).

I love the old photos you have posted about yourself. :-)

Lynne said...

What a nice writing. My father served in Vietnam. He returned to us. We did go to the wall in Washington. It was 1 of only 2 times I saw my dad cry. My father passed 7 months ago. He was very proud of his service in the Army. I miss my Dad something terrible.
Take care
Lynne

Kathy said...

I'm an Air Force brat. Both of my parents were enlisted as well as many other members of our family. Thank you for your service to our country...and to your friends brother as well, thank you. I was born during the Vietnam War (1967 as a matter of fact). I really appreciated this post. It touched me deeply. Thank you.

glorv1 said...

Hi Rick, that was an awesome post and very touching. I salute you and your service to our country. I haven't heard Al Green in a long time and that stirred memories of long ago. I'm going to add that sound to my list. I'm not copying or anything, I just like Mr. Green. Thanks for sharing.

kanmuri said...

This is really beautiful and I strongly believe that the soldiers that are fighting right now should have a warm welcome and thanks for their efforts. However I find myself appalled when I hear what has been going on in some prisoner camps: the abuse, the violence. Aren't those soldiers forgetting something really essential? That they are bound by law and convention to protect their POW and treat them correctly? They might be the "enemy" but they too, are fathers, brothers, sons, etc.

Chelsey said...

WOW! I can't hardly put into words the emotion that I felt reading that. The Vietnam Vets should not have been shunned. As you said, they did as "we" asked. I had not thought about how the men and women in Iraq would/have/will be treated when they come home. I hope we treat them with the respect and gratitude that they deserve.
Once again, wow, and thank you!

Tanna said...

I turned 18 in 1974, too. We were on the tail of all that had gone before. Six years older than us, one of my dearest friends is a Vietnam Vet. He was a medic for Delta Force Marines in the worst of the fray. One of the most emotional things I have ever done was run the Marine Corp Marathon with Bob and his wife, Joyce. I will NEVER forget being present as he made rubbings from The Wall. Nor will I ever forget the sacrifices all our military men and women have and do make for us. May God bless them. Thank you for remembering them.

CIS said...

Dude, awesome insight. I enjoy your posts each time I visit your blog.

Brown Eyes said...

Thank you, that was more touching then I can really explain, just... Thank you.

Budh.aaah said...

Hey Rick,
I didnt know anything about the war, I guess I didnt want to know about it. So even if its pretty late in the day for me to know it..thanks buddy. Thanks for letting me feel the emotion that I'd been suppressing..

j marie said...

Amen!
Thank you for that post. My husband served in the Army during Peace time, but would have gone where our country called him to go. We have nothing but the utmost respect for those who serve our country in the military, the police force, the firefighters, and countless others who put others before themselves. God bless you for your services to our country.

alphawoman said...

To say that the VN war was unpopular is an understatement. The frustration associated to that war was transferred to ths returning service men. It is shameful and remains shameful today. There is a small farm on the way home on US 60 outside Frankfort that has the number of men lost in the most current war, I believe it read 4203 as I passed it last week. A remeinder that freedom is not free and that what we take for granted is paid for dearly.

Mayur said...

that was really heart touching.....& i came to know a lot about that war

http://dadoichzlig.blogspot.com said...

http://dadoichzlig.blogspot.com

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

I love your Blog dude!! Seriously. I'm subscribing right now. Please check mine out as well. The music is awesome, I love that kind of music!! I am doing an organic garden this year. Would you consider giving me advise???

Jenny said...

Nice post. My son is contemplating service in the military. I'm proud that he loves his country enough to want to defend our freedoms.

Jack Daniels said...

Rick,

Very moving and very awe inspiring, please keep it up and allow the comments made by other on here spur you on.

Many thanks for your comments on my blog also.

Take care buddy

J.D

Mojag said...

I don't think I have ever been at a loss for words about Nam. Like you, I was not in Nam, only served during the early part when all we had were advisory troops there
('63 thru '65).
I lost several school friends and others to Nam. My best friend lost both legs at the knee.

This is the first time I have ever felt that some one honestly cared
about them. Not just you, but the people who left the comments..... I thank you all.

varun said...

I got emotional, similarly, I read some thoughts on seperation by a person called bill purkins posted at http://www.eopenmindz.com

fairtradesinger said...

This was very entertaining and touching. I am 18... long hair, in a metal band, and enjoying life, so this was very relevant for me. I was born into a military family, and have many close friends and relatives fighting in Iraq. I appreciate you taking the time to write this.

-FTS

Blogger Girl said...

Thank You for telling your story. I was born in 1986 and the Vietnam War has always just been something my parents talked about or something that I saw on the History Channel. I'm glad you told your personal experiences about that era. Hopefully people will learn and understand why it's so important that we take care of our own after they come home.

darkman said...

Interesting stuff.

txspatter said...

What a beautiful site. The music enhances the experience. I'm married to a Vietnam Vet. So many times he has shared, "and they spit on us when we came home." It always brings tears to his eyes and hurts his heart at age 63. Your writing is insightful and touching. Thank you for sharing your talent.

glozu4ia said...

This was a very touching and emotional piece. I really appreciate you sharing this. While I can say that I am not anywhere close to the generation form which you write this, I can say these particular topics: war, and apathy, and disregard as shown by our nation (or many in our nation who wish to forget the reminders of loss and defeat) are very important, and hardly addressed.

Even now, in my generation, especially, I feel that we have grown even more apathetic to other's plights (let alone the entire scenario and disaster in war). And while we may try very hard to "stay tuned", many of our feelings are skewed due to those around us and who we are with, others that may be just as apathetic and therefore we care even less.


Aren't we all very self-centered, naturally that we would not be able to associate with anything that didn't automatically have a direct impact on oneself?
Thus develops apathy.
The question then would be, "how do we take off this apathy?"

While I may not be an advocate of any war the United States decides to involve themselves in, I am deeply grateful for all those who are willing to stand for our honor--even if they may not believe it with their hearts.

Thank you again for sharing this!
Hopefully I didn't just make a complete dumbie of myself by saying all this.

Madhvi Nawani said...

Very nice Rick. Im new to blogspot, read mine too http://madhvinawani.blogspot.com/search?q=

JULS~ said...

Hi Rick. I found Veronica's blog today & then yours on hers! I read your touching post about the Vietnam War. I have a few memories of being in 6th grade and wearing a *MIA* bracelet with a soldier's name on it. I wore it until it broke in half because my wrist was thin & I had to bend it to wear. Now, as an adult, I wish I had kept it because it did have special meaning for me. I truly wanted that young man to come home safe & I felt like a little guardian angel in a way. I wish I had kept or remembered the name of the man engraved on it...

Also, my father was a television repair man. He would meet all kinds of people in his work and brought home a book from an author & survivor of the Vietnam war. I read his depiction of POWs and how he himself endured captivity living {surviving} in a pit. I couldn't believe the harsh, inhumane treatment he had to endure. But he endured it, survived and lived to write about it. A powerful reminder of what many who serve our country sacrifice to protect our freedom.

I also received an email from an old high school friend who is a police officer. He sent a copy of a letter written by a general to a college student about "sheep, sheepdogs & wolves". If you are interested, I can send you a copy. It is well written and may deserve a post and commentary from you on your blog. You may have already read it, if not, just let me know.

Theresa said...

I think it's great that you share how meeting someone who came back from Vietnam helped to change your outlook on the world. Thanks for sharing.

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