The War is Coming to an End...
The war is coming to an end. Each day it roils the halls of Congress. It stalks the President like a ghost.
Our focus is shifting from Iraq to home. As recent evidence of this, yesterday NPR broadcast a story about a town in Minnesota preparing to welcome its National Guard officers home after the longest deployment in the Guard's history. It won't be easy for them, or their families. The scandal at Walter Reed broken earlier this month by The Washington Post, and the Sunday NY Times magazine article, "The Women's War," about service women and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, outline some of the challenges facing our returning soldiers.
I grew up in California and I still remember the sounds of veterans breaking bottles, screaming and fighting, every Saturday night in Berkeley in the late 70's. I remember the used up, strung out, haunted veterans begging on the streets.
It's a long road home. We aren't the same, and they won't be, either. Let's not make the mistake we made in Vietnam. Let's protest, but let's take it out on the politicians, not on the soldiers. Whatever this war is, or was, or will be to history, veterans need our respect and compassion to help them heal, re-adjust and prevent their suffering. Sadly, these are emotions our nation is not long on now. We need to learn to live again with shades of gray, with argument more than judgement, with solutions, more than polemics. We need to re-discover civility and affirm our common purpose.
Our nation needs to heal.
If you haven't seen them, here are two powerful films: "Coming Home" (1978) about a returning Vietnam vet and "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946), which won a "Best Supporting Actor" award for a performance by a real world amputee, Harold Reed. Finally, I cannot recommed highly enough, this memoir of the Vietnam War, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.