In­volve­ment in war af­fects us all

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - OPINION - LEO LYNCH Former JP, Ben­ton County ••• Edi­tor’s note: Leo Lynch, an award-win­ning colum­nist, is a na­tive of Ben­ton County and has deep roots in north­west Arkansas. He is a re­tired in­dus­trial en­gi­neer and former Jus­tice of the Peace.

If you are a fan of PBS and AETN, you prob­a­bly have seen at least part of the 10 part se­ries on “The Viet­nam War.”

The AETN mag­a­zine refers to it as “A film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick” and a Land­mark Doc­u­men­tary Event. It cer­tainly meets both cri­te­ria and much, much more for those of a gen­er­a­tion af­fected by it. Whether a po­ten­tial re­cruit for the mil­i­tary ser­vice, a spouse of those who went to serve their coun­try or a par­ent whose sons were com­ing to the age of un­der­stand­ing war, the work pro­ceeded to ex­pose the flaws of our lead­ers de­ci­sions and char­ac­ter down to the ac­tual film from the com­bat. It is a painful mem­ory, but a re­minder that in many ways it was the com­ing of age for a na­tion who has learned not all of Wash­ing­ton’s po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions are made with­out some per­sonal po­lit­i­cal goal in mind.

If you take time to re­search the sit­u­a­tion as it de­vel­oped it is dif­fi­cult to pick a spe­cific point at which our na­tion’s lead­ers be­gan to fear the spread of Com­mu­nism in the Far East. Com­mu­nist-led North Viet­nam wanted all of Viet­nam un­der its con­trol and world events were ap­par­ently test­ing our po­si­tion as a su­per power. Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in the mil­i­tary news­pa­per ”Star and Stripes,” a Nov. 10, 2015, ar­ti­cle by Robert H. Reid, Pres­i­dent Kennedy told a New York Times re­porter in 1961 that “we (Amer­ica) have a prob­lem mak­ing our power cred­i­ble and Viet­nam looks like the place.” Up to his de­ci­sion to add more mil­i­tary ad­vi­sors, the United States had less than 1,000 mil­i­tary non-com­bat troops sta­tioned in South Viet­nam as ad­vi­sors, go­ing back to the Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower era. Ac­cord­ing to the ar­ti­cle, Kennedy in­creased the num­ber to 16,000 non­com­bat ad­vi­sors and things got pro­gres­sively worse un­der Lyn­don John­son. The Burns-Novick se­ries draws on in­for­ma­tion re­vealed to­ward the end of our in­volve­ment, much of which con­trib­uted greatly to the na­tional move­ment to “end the war,” and the events that the na­tion’s lead­er­ship twisted through their re­ports which cer­tainly af­fect the way we deal with the things to­day.

If you are of an age greatly af­fected by the events of World War II, your judge­ment might be bi­ased by what you saw and heard about it. We were ex­posed to the threat of war here in Amer­ica and pre­pared by reg­u­lar air raid drills at school in the event bombs came rain­ing down here as they did in the pic­tures of Lon­don and our Euro­pean al­lies. The war news via ra­dio and the news­pa­per, was a con­stant re­minder of what might hap­pen if — and ra­tioning of ga­so­line and food items fur­ther em­pha­sized that which our young minds ab­sorbed. Fam­i­lies were dis­rupted by the draft­ing and vol­un­teer­ing of those go­ing into mil­i­tary ser­vice.

At the end of World War II, movies, comic books and the news me­dia were filled with war heroes and our obli­ga­tion to de­fend our na­tion in the years to come. The stage was set for a gen­er­a­tion of loyal Amer­i­can men to prove their loy­alty in Korea or when­ever the need arose.

At the close of the Korean con­flict, the re­turn­ing GIs were heroes and ap­pre­ci­ated for their ser­vice. This at­ti­tude changed dur­ing the Viet­nam War as the bru­tal­ity of a lin­ger­ing war was ex­posed through tele­vi­sion re­ports and an end­less flow of young men. Many vol­un­teers were the sons of those ex­posed to World War II as chil­dren. The early re­cruits were them­selves com­mit­ted to the be­lief that Amer­ica couldn’t be wrong if we were told by our lead­ers that the need for our ef­forts in Viet­nam were real.

It was dif­fi­cult in fam­i­lies where the views of hus­bands and wives dif­fered on the need for the war and the fu­ture of the young men in the fam­ily who were ap­proach­ing draft age. When one mem­ber of the house­hold saw the war as wrong and the other spouse sup­ported the com­mit­ment of those in ac­tual com­bat, prob­lems arose.

The 10-part doc­u­men­tary does a great job of telling the story of the young men who fought the war, the pain of those cap­tured and the tragic loss of the fam­i­lies of those who gave their lives for what they be­lieved and had been taught. The story of what went on be­hind the scenes in Wash­ing­ton, the hu­man weak­ness and the need for per­sonal recog­ni­tion and ac­claim, needed to be told much ear­lier in a seem­ingly end­less war that no one won.

We are still see­ing ef­fects of events from that era be­ing acted out in to­day in our vi­o­lent protests in cities across our coun­try. These are not protests over a lack of food or protests against a war, they come with com­plaints about po­lice bru­tal­ity and af­fect ath­letes with multi-year mil­lion dol­lar salaries. Some are not vi­o­lent, some come with in­jury and even death and now we see protests af­fect­ing the world of sports.

Amer­ica has sur­vived much worse and came out of it morally changed. We will sur­vive this cur­rent epi­demic of dis­cord and we will be tested in wars like Afghanistan and Iraq as long as we are the su­per power of the world. God will­ing, my grand­sons will not be caught up in a 30year war such as Viet­nam which pits fam­ily mem­ber against fam­ily mem­ber and costs so much need­less loss of lives.

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