August 12, 2009 by David Gillaspie
Not everyone staying at DG’s B&B shares the same point of view. We don’t have a questionnaire to fill out, just a little kindness and understanding. When that’s not enough we grab a blanket. One guest read a column from Veterans of Foreign Wars editor Richard Kolb.
“The problem Mr. Kolb doesn’t address in his writing is found in the numbers he uses. Is he writing about a chasm between Woodstock and Da Nang or compiling demographic interpretations of the Vietnam War. That’s one way of doing it, but it is distasteful.
Mr. Kolb uses numbers the way war managers used body counts to gauge progress. I don’t think he wants to do that. Numbers don’t tell the tale of Vietnam now any more than Robert McNamara’s fire bomb analysis over Japan tells that story.
A better angle would have been interviews with hippie Vietnam vets who went to Woodstock. There has to be at least one. A recent story told of a Japanese man’s business trip to Hiroshima when the first nuclear bomb dropped. He was injured and went home to Nagasaki just in time for second nuclear bomb. One guy takes the front row seat no one wants.
War is the enemy, but, (and there’s always a ‘but’), if war is the enemy, and it is conducted with incompetence, who is the real enemy. Why not look at the chain of command for Vietnam?
LBJ picks bombing targets from his toilet? Nixon pushes the Christmas Bombing button to show he’s tough? Does this sound like military action designed to win a war? How do you win using soldiers to draw fire so you can call in air strikes? The evidence is in the books. You don’t.
Until we embrace the shared stupidity that spans the chasm between Woodstock and the war, we’ll never lose the ‘them and us’ mentality. Individually we either come to grips with our actions or we don’t. Instead of spewing numbers of disdain to make a point of our war dead, why not find a better way to honor their memory?
I was in the first wave of the all-volunteer Army, September 1974. My range masters were Vietnam guys. My drill sergeants were Vietnam guys. My captain was a Vietnam guy twice, enlisted the first time, a ninety day wonder the second. These guys all stayed in. Why? They wouldn’t leave the Army in the shape it was in. They told us it was our duty to make the Army better.
All vets know the Army of 1974 was in trouble. President Nixon resigned in August 1974; Army Chief of Staff General Abrams died in September 1974; Vietnam was closing down. Race and drugs got out of hand. The Army had to get better, and I like to think the hippie characters I joined with did their duty. Once they got the haircut and a pair of boots dropped on their uniform pile they were soldiers on the outside, but hippies to the core.
Hippie soldiers saved the Army from going further down the drain in 1974. Those are the guys who crawled out of the chasm between Woodstock and the war. They knew the difference between the two.
I’ve been a caregiver for someone who’s kids call him an ‘Archie Bunker’ type, an ‘America, Love It or Leave It’ guy. Did it matter by the time he got to me? Not at all. Once Parkinson’s takes hold, politics plays second fiddle, maybe third. Here was a WWII Marine, a motorcycle rider with a T-top Trans-Am, a guy who liked to say “if man can build it, a man can fix it.” We wanted the same thing.
No one fixes Parkinson’s, the same way no one fixes an attitude. You accept Parkinson’s, but try to understand an attitude that trots out the ghosts of Hanoi Jane, stoned out hippies, and our guys from Vietnam.
I’ll tell you this much, Mr. Kolb can preach to his choir, but the congregation sings a different song. Enough water has passed under the bridge since Woodstock and April 30, 1975 for aging hippies and lurps to find common ground and clean it up. They don’t need to stick a fork in it to know when it’s done. And Mr. Kolb doesn’t need to salt the wounds that never heal.”