War And Courage

The most couageous people in the world don't have a medal to show for it, nor do they need one.
The most courageous people in the world don’t have a medal to show for it, nor do they need one.

Daily Prompt: 180 Degrees

Tell us about a time you did a 180 — changed your views on something, reversed a decision, or acted in a way you ordinarily don’t.

This goes back a few year; almost a couple of lifetimes.

It was in September of ‘66. I had barely been in the Army a month. I considered myself informed and took my military duty serious. I read the papers, watched TV news, and listened to the politicians. Though not understanding the political nature of the Vietnam War thoroughly I supported our leaders and the thinking of the majority. That majority included the religious leaders and the media.

I thought of courage as something demonstrated by athletes who endured pain and injury to compete and running blindly into battle as others fell dead around you.

The first few weeks in the Army we saw several indoctrination films meant to stir our hatred for North Vietnam and the Vietcong. Then there was a movie entitled Why Vietnam? The one word answer was “commitment.” That seemed incomplete for the moment. ‘Whose commitment?’ I asked.

The following Sunday I didn’t attend church services as I did the week before. At that church service I heard of how noble and brave we were to be a part of a cause that would rid Vietnam of communism. Instead I sat on the porch of my World War II style wood barracks and wondered if my life was worth giving to a “commitment” or to influence the will of another country.

I thought about with only a few more months of training I could be sent to a strange land and within a matter of days be dead. Suddenly my thinking had been completely changed. It was not by any influence of the antiwar movement that was yet in it’s infancy.

I was not as committed as many who refused to even serve, but I decided, while remaining in the Army, every effort would be made not to serve in a combat capacity.

As my time in service and the war drug on I saw a certain hypocrisy. For example little was said about Joe Namath and actor George Hamilton receiving exemptions. Namath had a medical deferment because of a bad knee, but it didn’t interfere with playing professional football every Sunday and philandering his heart’s content. Actor George Hamilton was given a hard ship deferment because he was a financial support for his mother and Hollywood could not be without his philandering for two years. Apparently he didn’t have enough put back to care for her for two years either.

Mohammad Ali was publicly excoriated for refusing to be drafted because of his religious beliefs. I saw the hypocrisy immediately. Ali’s comment to a reporter regarding his stand was thought-provoking, “Ain’t no Vietcong made me ride the back of the bus.” I had a friend who became a Jehovah’s Witness and applied to terminate his military service. The stand he took was reasoned and articulated brilliantly. He endured shame, humiliation, and harsh treatment, but he stood firm for what he believed. That man represents to me courage.

I can’t say whether or not Mohammad Ali would have died for his beliefs, but I know my friend would have.

My view of the Vietnam War changed. My view of what it means to stand for something that is unpopular changed. My view of courage changed.

Other bloggers with better than 98.6 degree change of view:

17 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. This war was just a little before “my time” and I honestly don’t know how I would have felt or thought about things if it had affected my life so directly.

  2. That war is re-lived in my hubby’s head almost every night. Thank you for your honesty on the other side of that war. He went on to do two tours after that but that war is the one that really haunts him the most. Thank you also for the ping back.

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