Today I honor the memory of my ancestors and relatives who fought in the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam.
Today I remember:
+Two uncles I never knew: Lt. Gerald Kennedy (KIA, WWII) and Sgt. Cecil Kennedy (KIA, WWII).
+My father, Charles, between them in age, who was 4F because of his knees and childhood rheumatic fever; he tried to enlist in every branch and was turned down, and then served as a firefighter at Ft. Lewis, to free others for military service.
+Their brother, my Uncle Larry, who served in the military, came home safely, lived a long life, and is much missed.
+My dear Uncle Don, who served in the military, came home safely, and enriched the lives of all around him, living to age 95.
+I remember–and miss–my brother, WO Dennis Kennedy, 1948-96, who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He lived through it, but I think he left a piece of his soul there.
I think of my many, many relatives, friends, and acquaintances, my peers, who served in Vietnam. Some came back, and some didn’t.
+IC1 James Sampers (KIA, Vietnam)
+PFC Thomas Orr (KIA, Vietnam)
Marc, Jim, Tim, Bill, Steve, Doug …
I grieve for all those lost in our current ongoing wars, and hope for the safe return of the rest.
And so I say “Thank you” to all who have served in our military, and to all who have supported military family members while they did so. I will always respect those who fight because they believe they are defending their own people–even those who fight against causes I believe in. I will always honor those who fight to protect others–even to protect them against “my side.”
As much as I believe in anything, I believe in the utter futility of war, that war is almost never the right course–not absolutely never, but almost never. But with humans being what they are and the world what it is, I do think the U.S. needs a military force. So I thank those who do that job, and I support their being taken care of both during and after their service, including their families’ being supported well while they serve.
If we ever again have a draft, I want it to be absolutely universal but not entirely military, with no deferments or exemptions on any basis other than a disability so great that the person cannot perform any useful function. I was part of a working-class family and a working-class neighborhood during the Vietnam years, and I see the same pattern today I saw then: those in lower socioeconomic groups paying a disproportionately higher price.
Are there things worth dying for? Are there things worth killing for? I am not an absolute pacifist; I think there are. But I’m not easy in my mind about anyone making the decision for another about what those things are—and especially with leaders making that decision for their people, particularly for the ones who will have to do the killing and the dying.
Are there things worth dying for? Are there things worth killing for? Those two are so intertwined. Chicken and egg? But I think it starts with killing. War always starts with someone deciding that something is worth killing for. Yet no one ever calls someone a hero for saying, “I will kill for my country”; “I will kill for the cause.” Heroes say, “I will die for my country”; I will die for my cause.” But war isn’t about dying, it’s about killing.
Maybe if we were more honest about that, there would be a bit less of it. Maybe.
“I am tired and sick of War. Its Glory is all moonshine. It is only those who
have never fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded
who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is Hell!”
— William T. Sherman