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Roger L. Simon

Blame Me for Everything on Memorial Day

May 25th, 2014 - 7:14 pm

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I did everything I could not to fight in Vietnam.  To be honest, it wasn’t really in the cards anyway.  I was in grad school, married with a kid on the way. Besides, I was from the upper middle class.  There were always ways out if my number came up, people to call.

Making war wasn’t for the likes of me. I was an intellectual, an artist — a liberal or even a leftist.  I had read Bertrand Russell.

Was I a coward?

I should say not. (At least I didn’t think so at the time.)  I thought of myself as an idealist, doing the right thing, maybe even a revolutionary of sorts. I protested the war every chance I got — while positioning myself safely, not too far, not too close,  three or four rows from the police line — everywhere from Golden Gate Park to the Washington Mall to the UN to Los Angeles’ Century Plaza Hotel in June 1967 when LBJ was giving a fundraising dinner and the LAPD moved in on the demonstrators. (Yes, I was there — though far out of harm’s way).  I also attended the requisite number of teach-ins and be-ins sponsored by, among others, the Mobilization Against the War and then New Mobe and then the New New Mobe (okay, kidding). I even spoke at some. I helped found some adolescent nonsense called the Peace and Freedom Party, which appears, for reasons unknown to man or beast, on the California ballot to this day.  It got so I was chanting “Ho Ho, Ho, Chi Minh, Vietcong is going to win!” in my sleep.

I also represented “my generation” in debate (formal and otherwise) with that “clueless” generation of our parents, the veterans of WWII.  I can remember yelling at my father, a former flight surgeon, that he just didn’t get it, that this wasn’t like his war and that we were the villains in Vietnam.  After what felt like years of this, I finally got my mother to agree with me and I could see doubt in my father’s eyes. I had won.

When I think of that moment today I am sick to my stomach with shame. This must have been around 1970 and we were at a medical convention at a fancy Las Vegas hotel — at my father’s invitation, of course, and on his dime.  Forget the totalitarian communisms like North Korea and North Vietnam  that we were trying to stop, what this was all about for so many of us in those days was beating our fathers, showing them up.

We didn’t realize that in the process we were creating a monster — the Boomers who came behind us and thought we were cool because we were the first to protest, the first to rock till we dropped, the first to smoke dope, the first to drop acid, the first to… well, never mind.  

We weren’t the first to do anything, really.  We we were just the first popularizers, the first to infiltrate the American mind in such a profound way that the wrong people became the heroes. After us, patriotism was out, ROTC was out, America the Beautiful was out.

Now we have a country of Barack Obama and veterans who are wait-listed for medical care and a foreign policy — not to mention a world — in  shambles because this once great land leads from behind, if at all.

Sorry. I was just a kid.  I didn’t know what I was doing.

And I wasn’t alone.  There were a lot of us and it will take a lot of us to make this right.  One way to start is that some of us can start to acknowledge what we did wrong.  And we can reach out to others, not in rancor, but in honesty and love.

Happy Memorial Day!  I salute our troops and wish I had been one of you. Oh, how I wish.

(Artwork by Shutterstock.com.)

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Top Rated Comments   
I joined in 1969 and retired in 1993. I was therefore out of step with my civilian cohort through about 1980. Having studied the Vietnam War professionally, I could not bring myself to watch any Hollywood films about the war and I think I hated the antiwar types (many of whom were more accurately anti-US than antiwar) with a pure hatred one reserves for traitors.

Around about 1982, I began to run into businessmen and others who, finding out I was in the military, told me they envied me and wished they had joined. I'd think to myself, "Sure you do - now."
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was your polar opposite. As a WWII war orphan, I could not be sent into combat without my consent. My problem is that every morning, I shave. If I ducked military service, the government would get another guy. I would always wonder who he was and what happened to him.

When I graduated from college, I was married and had a son. I volunteered for flight school, volunteered for an F4 and asked to be sent to South East Asia. The USAF assigned me to Homestead AFB, FL. Every month I sent in another volunteer statement until I received orders to DaNang, where close air support was the specialty. In one year, we lost 12 of our 18 aircraft. When Operation Linebacker started, I volunteered for "Stormy." Stormy did single ship road recce over the trail and led strikes into areas where O2 and OV10 forward air controllers couldn't survive. At 0645 April 28, 1972, I should have been killed.

In 1980, I got a call from a Rand Corp guy studying Vietnam vets. He asked if we were right in Vietnam. Yes, we were right. He asked if knowing the outcome, I would do again. Again, Yes. He asked if there was anything I did that I regretted and would change. I started to say no, but then changed my mind. At 0640 28th of April 1972, pulling off the 7th pass on an SA2 site, I would turn left instead of right. The missiles were on the right.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
This reminds me of the dedication page in P.J. O'Rourke's "Give War a Chance:"

"Like many men of my generation, I had an opportunity to
give war a chance, and I promptly chickened out. I went to
my draft physical in 1970 with a doctor's letter about my
history of drug abuse. The letter was four and a half pages
long with three and a half pages devoted to listing the drugs
I'd abused. I was shunted into the office of an Army
psychiatrist who, at the end of a forty-five-minute interview
with me, was pounding his desk and shouting, "You're ____ed
up! You don't belong in the Army!" He was certainly right on
the first count and possibly right on the second. Anyway, I
didn't have to go. But that, of course, meant someone else had
to go in my place. I would like to dedicate this book to him.
I hope you got back in one piece, fellow. I hope you were
more use to your platoon mates than I would have been. I
hope you're rich and happy now. And in 1971, when
somebody punched me in the face for being a long-haired
peace creep, I hope that was you."
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (167)
All Comments   (167)
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I was talked out of heading for Canada and reluctantly served in the Army - RVN '68-69. My only regret now is not volunteering for door gunner when I had the chance. The micro-managing incompetence of the White House and rampant corruption of the Viet military in no way lessens the honor off serving our nation in wartime.

All war vets suffer survivors guilt, but it is infinitely preferable to the indelible shame of evading the call to service, forcing the hardship and risk onto another.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I graduated high school in June of 67. My parents desperately wanted me to go to college as I would have been the first in the family to do so. I on the other hand was already a dedicated anti communist and wanted to join the Navy. So I went to college...for two years.....listening to the moronic chants of the anti war crowd on TV or even live on campus was enough to make me grind my teeth together. Finally, having had enough I joined the Navy in 1970. Assigned to a Destroyer I made two Westpac cruises on station in the Gulf of Tonkin. Then decided to stay in and served for 24 years. I'd do all over again with only one change; I'd have joined immediately after high school.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
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17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a teenager I wanted a couple of things: 1.) To put a stop to the "liberal" Democrats putting us into foreign bloodbath war after foreign bloodbath war (four wars over a space of 50 years, between 1917 and the 1960s at a cost of 600,000 American lives, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Filipinos killed in WWII), and (2) to put an end to the government forcing millions of young men into the armed forces to fight those wars (or to not fight the Cold War). That's why I protested against the Vietnam War, and the Draft. I got what I wanted, and I'm real happy with the way things have turned out. Things aren't perfect, but they're a lot better than they were.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
I served. 12 years in the Army.
I find it slightly sick making now that the only thing the Left learned out of the whole sorry mess was not to spit on the troops. So now vets are "thanked for our service" while our cause is sold down the river and our wounded and dead are dishonored.
Sorry, not buying it. Secure our gains, tend our wounded brothers and sisters, and don't send our children out again unless we as a nation declare formally and unequivocally that we are in a state of war.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
You bet Roger,
"Oh how I wish" I could mourn 12 good friends every Memorial Day and remember every detail of the way that they died. How I wish I could have experienced the terror of ground combat and the misery of jungle life. "I was just a kid. I didn't know what I was doing." My friends and I were 63 years old when we were deployed to RVN in the infantry, so we had the benefit of mature judgement to rely upon. You pompous piece of crap, I was 20 and was an old man in my company. You weren't just a kid, you simply lacked character. And now your mangy old ass wants to be forgiven for your cowardice and for your contribution to the sorry disconnect between the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship in a republic. Not happening, dude. You sucked then and will suck to your grave.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
you're absolutely right I was in the Navy in 1967 at 17 and I agree with you completely this guy and all the rest of the cowardly un-American communists sucked then and now there is no forgiveness now or ever
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Shouldn't you save your bitterness for those who are your enemies, rather than those who learned better and now work for what's right?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
"We weren’t the first to do anything, really. We we were just the first popularizers, the first to infiltrate the American mind in such a profound way that the wrong people became the heroes. After us, patriotism was out, ROTC was out, America the Beautiful was out."

Not your fault. Not any protestors fault.

It's the fault of the people who ran the Vietnam operation. When the leadership of the country, decides to decieve it's own citizens, then the citizens notice that. Even if they can't vocalize it, they just got a feeling. The kids see that, and lose respect for their parents, for not seeing the deception.

It's all so predictable. But, not your fault, the protestors were RIGHT. They are the real heroes.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Tell you one thing I don't wish for. I don't wish I could be magically transported from the nice, safe, comfy life I'm living, back to Khe Sanh in 1968...and neither does anyone else with a normally functioning brain.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Whoa, let's slow down there just a little Roger, there are other considerations. How about you 'prosecute' a war by throwing your young into it, but then never try to win it. My brother did two tours 67-69 over there, came home and told me they don't want to win, these boys are dying for nothing. Couple of beers on Memorial Day and we blubber all over ourselves. Good feelings, yeah. Just trying to keep it real.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, protesting the Viet Nam War was nothing that should be considered "wrong" in and of itself ... it all depended on how one did it, because such protest is a Constitutional right and an obligation on those who believe the government is doing the wrong thing, or even doing the right thing for the wrong reasons or going about it in the wrong way. On the other hand, violent, anti-Americanism and pro-communism certainly was wrong and shameful. But it does not sound like Mr. Simon was guilty of that.

As to the Viet Nam War itself, it was a bad war, fought badly for the wrong reasons (political) by soldiers who were every bit as good or bad as any that ever came before them in any American war since the revolution. The soldiers were vilified but it was not the poor grunt in a rice paddy or pilot in an A-4 who ran the war or made any strategic decisions about how to fight the war. Over 58,000 young men were sacrificed, and hundreds of thousands more maimed for life for a cause that was eventually wholly abandoned by our Democrat-controlled Congress in 1975, feeling its oats after having successfully overturned the results of the 1972 Presidential election the year before.

If we had known in 1967 what Congress was going to do 8 years later, completely abandoning SE Asia to the communists, would anyone have been willing to fight and die for such a pointles cause? Probably very few.

Memorial Day isn't about guilt - it's about expressing thanks, pride and respect for the sacrifices made by individual men and women who served and lost their lives ... this holiday is not about the politics of foreign wars, which are rarely inspiring, no matter which side one is on politically.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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