End of Combat Operations

If you have followed this blog for anytime now, you know that I am passionate about Veterans issues.  I do indeed write with a twist of satire and humor, but make no mistake about it, I mean what I say.  I am extremely optimistic about the future of my fellow Veterans and I think this nation will be all the more better for our experiences.  The picture above is actually my platoon have just returned from Iraq to Kuwait, enjoying a little Air Conditioning that was seriously lacking in Iraq circa 2003.  However, that was the beginning of the end of it for us all. Glad it had an end.  But I also have to acknowledge, things are getting a little weird and Vietnam Vets, us current generation of Veterans might need a little insight.

World War 2

I mean, this is the war we all really like right? The greatest generation.  Total Mobilization. Total War. As we start to lose more of this WW2 generation, pretty soon, all most of us will know this war by are the history books and movies.  Now there have been some great World War 2 movies.  The latest of which is the movie Fury, which I highly recommend.  This is not a movie review blog, but I’ll go ahead and give this one a plug.  If Brad Pitt wants to cut me in on the profits as a result, I’ll be awaiting the check.

However, what is equally notable about this total war is that it was also Total Victory.  Absolute, total and final victory.  And by my count, that might be the last time it happened with such finality.  Now this is at no fault of our military forces of the past 60 years.  They did all that was asked of them, but this type of total victory was not extended as an option.  I mean the Korean War gave us some epic Chesty Puller quotes, but 60 years and a few Kim Jungs later, we are still dealing with that place.  The 1991 Gulf War was an epic victory, but see Operation Iraqi Freedom to know that there was something left hanging.

But my point is, despite the carnage World War 2 left on the world, it still holds this romantic lore in American society.  Why?  Perhaps because with this total War came total Victory in a way that gave closure like so few have since seen.  When the war ended in 1945, Veterans could peacefully have coffee in Paris a year later. I mean, Germany and Japan are actually some of our greatest allies to date.  That is a pretty epic turn around.  And you know what, that generation deserved it.  This total war was won on the backs of that generation and I can think of no greater gift to give them than this total victory that they so abundantly deserved.

Things That Transcend

I do think though that despite the differences that existed in these various decades, there are without a doubt some things that just transcend time. With the human anatomy being the same, I imagine the first time you were shot at created a pretty universal pucker factor that would be recognized in any decade.  Moreover, watching the death of a fellow service member probably looked much the same.  Anatomy is anatomy after all.

Moreover, War tends to build a brotherhood regardless of the generation you fought in.  There is just something that is irreplaceable in the psyche of a warrior that causes them to have a unique bond with one another.  I image if Facebook was around in the 1940’s and 50’s, you would see the same type of fellowship you see now among our generation of vets.  And despite it being hard to imagine this of all our grandparents, yes probably as much profanity.

After all ,the nostalgia is probably all the same as well. Just this weekend, I was cleaning out my garage, and I came across a storage bin with my old desert cammies, digital and pre-digital mind you, my boots, and even a haji man dress thing that I bought in a market.  Perhaps I’ll put it on and go squat outside of Wal-Mart or something.  My generation of Vets knows what I mean by that.  However,  upon opening that bin, the nostalgia was overwhelming and I remember my WW2 Veteran Grandfather having a similar storage box in his closet.  Fascinating.

The End of it All

So this is where I get to the title of my article, Vietnam Vets, we might need your help.  Today there were stories going around about Camp Leatherneck being handed over to the Afghan forces.  Now I served in Iraq in 2003, but never set foot in Afghanistan. However, I was drawn to a couple of sites on Facebook led by Veterans discussing the matter.  The Warfighter Foundation gave their feelings on it and another site titled Sangin Valley Gun Club discussed it as well. And in both cases, I was drawn to the nostalgia that was obvious from them.  It was real.

Now we all know Iraq to be the mess that it currently is today and that bothers us to a serious degree to watch the country in this condition.  Brothers who served in Afghanistan now have to wonder if they will have to watch the same thing.  Honestly, given what has happened in Iraq it is entirely possible. So that leads me to you Vietnam Vets, because we might need a little help processing this all.

I have seen the footage of the American embassy in Saigon being evacuated and having served in War myself now, I can’t honestly imagine how that made you feel.  Its a strange thing for its not that any of us actually have an earnest desire to fight for a country that doesn’t have the guts to stand up and fight for itself.  However, some of that territory we traversed and lived in will always have a part of us, so to watch it fall knowing the price that was paid is complex at best.

And as far as I am concerned, I honestly am not too sure how I feel about it all.  I get some anger, some ambivalence, some nostalgia, and a little more anger.  And since we are just now drawing down in recent years from this decades long conflict, its all fairly new to most of us in this generation.  I think we will indeed come through it all just fine, but it doesn’t look like we will all be having coffee in Baghdad or Kubul anytime soon like our grandparents could in Berlin or Tokyo.  So how silly would it be not to listen to the input of the generation that came before us.  So to my generation of Vets, sound off, how does it make you feel.  And to the generation that came before us from Vietnam, you guys might have the right words a current veteran needs to hear these days.   For like the Movie Jarhead quotes succinctly, “Every War is different, Every War is the same.”

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8 Replies to “Vietnam Vets, We Might Need Your Help”

  1. It kinda makes me feel like ISIS is taking my home to. We made a few friends there. Remember Mr Whiskey and Col Ali, the firemen, the guys at the power plant, folks that came out and gave use Chai. And what about all the kids. But at some point they had to take care of themselves. Its a lot to take in. When we went to war in 03 my son was 9. Today he was among the last 19 Marines to leave Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan. You know it’s a pretty safe bet that if Vietnam decided not to sell us rice after the war we would probably be okay. But the US will always have a stake in the stability of the Middle East until they figure out how to cars run on water. But Jeff, that’s for another generation, we did what we were asked to do.

    1. I agree Gunny, we did our part. I would love to go back and Visit Al Kut sometime, but doesn’t look like a possibility. Thats crazy that your son was 9 and now he is one of the last leaving Camp Leatherneck. By the time my son joins the Marines I’m sure we will be fighting Aliens on Mars or something.

  2. I was in one of the units that evacuated the South Vietnamese when Saigon fell. At the time it was sickening feeling to watch the city fall, and not be able to fight. In hindsight, and after reading several articles on the subject, I found that the President Ford had only committed a few hundred Marines to the operation, and we would have not fared well against the numerous divisions of N.V.A. circling the city.
    It is gratifying to see that even though we “lost” the war, Communism didn’t really expand in the region as many thought it would. And even though the Communist party rules Vietnam, and can be brutal, it has become a largely Capitalist country. It is also gratifying to see many of the people we evacuated, or their children, become successful in the U.S.

    1. Great First hand account Dave. Thanks for commenting. I do hope as time goes on, we can see some progress in the region. It’s just really hard to watch now.

  3. Thanks Jeff, this is great to read.

    I was in NE Thailand before, and the people there are about as pro-American as they come…

    they said we’re respectful, and also…

    US special forces in Thailand played an instrumental role in defeating the Communists on that side of the Mekong, I think they recognize this..

    And maybe you can google, “Ambassador says US handed Cambodia to butcher 40 years ago,”…

    Wherein a group of ideological youngsters with machetes and AK-47s slaughtered several million people…right after the US forces the pinko protesters were concerned with, were dispatched home…

    He said that telling the Cambodians the Marines were leaving was like telling them Santa Claus had died…

  4. I was stationed in Mosul Iraq in 05-06. We lived on the Police Academy with the Kurds. These were men that lived with us, and bled with us. It killed me to watch the city and fall into the hands of ISIS. We left and things were looking better. The power was on almost a full 24 hrs at a time, hospitals were all open, schools were open. It was still the wild west and had a long way to go, but you could see progress. Then we just walked away. Part of me wants to go back and retake it, part says its their war, but I remember the IED’s that injured my friends, I remember going to the funeral services at LSA Diamondback and Fob Marez. I remember the blood and dirt I chewed with Kurds, Iraqis and Americans. I am not sure exactly how to explain how I feel. Betrayed is the closest I can think of, but it doesn’t do it justice. Thanks for your article. Guess I can be glad that I served with the caliber of people I served with and leave it at that.

    1. Well said man. You highlight well the mental struggle we all have with it.

  5. I am an amateur student of history and I like to see what small changes can make big changes in history. For instance, in 1947, President Truman under pressure from members of Congress and intellectual elites from the so-called “Ivy League” universities, changed the name of the War Department to the Department of Defense. Small change, no? Since then, the mindset of the civilian overseers appointed by the Presidents have trickled down through the chain of command and the US have lost (or tied) every real war since. The theory of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is one result of this new mindset. Don’t plan to win the war, just plan on killing every living thing if they are foolish enough to attack. As you said, we are still dealing with the results of the Korean War-sorry, police action-which we all lost. Vietnam speaks for itself. The list goes on. I don’t count Panama or Grenada since they involved countries whose total population is less than many of our cities. When someone like Obama comes into that situation, things can only get worse since he cannot see any possible need for a defense against a dirty, barefoot goatherd in a third world country. That’s when the military suffers it’s worst defeat-at the hands of the budget cutters and social engineers. Since we don’t have a war, let’s see what happens if we change things around like making half our combat force female. I won’t go on but I think you can see what I mean.

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