Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day 2017

Although I've posted Jimi Hendrix' version of the Star-spangled Banner four times before over the years on my blog, I'm moved to post it again today.  My beloved veteran was a high school dropout who was drafted into the U.S. Army at age 19 in the spring of 1969.  He did his basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington, and was sent to Newport News, Virginia, for helicopter mechanic training school.  He and his buddies had a plan to attend Woodstock and see Jimi Hendrix, but it didn't materialize.  I am sure that there were veterans in the crowd at Woodstock.  Jimi Hendrix had been drafted into the Army and served in the 101st Airborne Division, which was the same division my veteran was in, although Jimi Hendrix did not serve in Vietnam.  My veteran loved the music of Jimi Hendrix.

In late January 1970, I drove R to Oakland Army Base on the day before he was to fly to Vietnam.  He asked me not to cry when I said goodbye to him.  I honored his wish but cried hard on my way home across the San Francisco Bay Bridge.  That night he called me and asked me to come back and pick him up and take him to a draft resistance office.  I sat in the hallway while he talked with a draft resistance counselor.  When he returned to the hallway, his heart was heavy.  He said, "I will meet the defeat of her challenge."  He didn't believe he could be granted conscientious objector status.  He didn't want to go to Canada and doubted that Canada would accept him anyway because of his lack of education or skills valued by the Canadian government.  He did not want to go to prison (although he ended up in prison later in his life). He made the fateful decision to go to Vietnam. He was against the war when he left and against the war when he returned home on December 8, 1970, but when he returned he was broken by his experience of war.  He struggled for the rest of his life. We separated for the last time in early October 1971.  In one of the last letters to me in around 2006, he wrote. "All we are saying is give peace a chance."

May all veterans and their families, all over the world, find peace.


Sabine said...

It is so obviously painful, all your brutal honesty whenever you write about your R. I hope that time heals wounds.

am said...

The healing is in the telling of the story on those few days of the year when I am strongly reminded of the past. My hope is always that someone can learn something from my experience of the long-term effects of war on veterans and those who love them. Thank you for your kindness today, Sabine.

Colette said...

I am deeply moved. I am also inspired to take the time to remember all the Vietnam vet's who have been a part of my life, for better or worse.

am said...

Thank you for being here today, moved along with me, and sharing your mixed experience with veterans, Colette. Yes. Mine, too. For better or worse. It is occurring to me that perhaps all of the men of our generation live in the shadow of the Vietnam War era, whether they went to Vietnam, received a deferment, refused to go to Vietnam, or their lottery number was too high for them to be drafted. There is a divide between the men who went to Vietnam and those who didn't, although I have seen it bridged. As women, we didn't have to face being sent to Vietnam unless we volunteered. Interesting that when there was no longer a draft, more women began to join the armed forces. One of the daughters of a first cousin of mine joined the Marines after September 11 and served in Iraq. So many of the male veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have committed suicide. My young female cousin seems to have be empowered by her experience in Iraq, although many young women have been devastated by their experiences in the military. Just yesterday, I heard a young man mention the new PTSD -- Presidential Stress Disorder. I wondered if he was a veteran. All the talk by our bizarre president about more war is unsettling, to say the least.