American Memorializes Real Heroes
There are those who think that one’s political opinions can get in the way of true patriotism. This is not true. Any citizen of this great nation has the right to write, publish or comment on whatever they want. Check the First Amendment to our Constitution. The right of freedom of the press gives us freedom of religion and gatherings. The president does not have the right to close churches, or demand they open. Legally speaking, it’s not his call.
Today, we are looking back to the way we view our own countrymen and women. When I was a kid, soldiers marched in parades. Firetrucks were always part of the festivities, and around the area where I grew up, Brentwood, Pennsylvania, the firetrucks were colorful. Brentwood had red trucks, while the neighboring borough, Whitehall, had, yes you guessed it, white trucks. The town of Green Tree, had green trucks. And you wonder why I am the way I am.
My father fought in World War II and had communications responsibilities in Europe. The troops were in charge of raising telephone poles and getting the phone system back up and running in that war-torn land. I was taught to be a patriot and respect America and the flag for which it stands. As I said in my recent book, Gold, God, Guns & Goofballs, I sincerely love my country and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I respect the military and don’t need a draft dodger or goodie-two-shoes flag waver to tell me who I am.
Sometime after World War II, we reluctantly sent more of our finest men to Korea to fight another conflict. That war didn’t result in a full victory, thus we now have a North and a South Korea. Later, we got sucked into another conflict between communists and dictators in Vietnam. We picked the side we believed would help us defeat communism. We were wrong and destroyed a country along with the good name of America. Vietnam veterans have not been treated very well in this country. I am sorry for that.
If you are a younger reader, I would suggest you watch these movies: Apocalypse Now, Born on the 4th of July, Platoon, Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket or spend some time with Ken Burns’ 2017 documentary The Vietnam War. There were more than 365,000 Vietnamese civilians killed in that war, while there are 58,276 names of US troops on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. The war ended when the United States government evacuated embassy personnel and the communists took over Vietnam. That was not our proudest moment. Unfortunately, distrust of the government by our baby boomer generation, plus the general disdain for the war, splashed hard against our vets who came home, many injured, tired and broken. Drug addiction and despair gripped many of my buddies for years. They should be honored. They were asked to do a job, and they did it.
When terrorists from Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan entered our country and flew jets into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, these sites became crime scenes and war zones. The press even called the disaster in New York City “Ground Zero,” as if a bomb had been dropped at the site. That is the original meaning of the phrase. Brave police, firemen and first responders rushed to the burnt and fallen buildings, attempting to rescue people from the rubble. Since many perished, the teams turned to searching for human remains. As time has shown us, many of those heroes got terrible diseases and ailments from working on what they called “the pile” at Ground Zero. After years of fighting for benefits, Congress finally gave them some support and aid. It’s embarrassing that those responders had to fight to get credit and the help they needed. We should be honoring those people every day.
Now, we face another external force that has brought death and depression to many in this country, the global pandemic. As I’m writing this, there are close to 98,000 deaths from this evil virus, close to twice the number of casualties in the Vietnam war. Deaths from COVID-19 virus are now thirty-two times the number of US citizens who died on 9-11. Today we also salute those courageous people who are working endless hours in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. Thank you for your service.
According to Vox.com, “Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 90,000 healthcare workers have been infected with the virus.” It will probably be a long time before we get verified figures about healthcare worker deaths on the frontline, but it’s interesting that the same Vox article takes the position that we shouldn’t see healthcare workers in the same light as soldiers. You can read it here. I get their point. Soldiers go into war knowing they might die while healthcare workers never agreed to giving their life when doing their jobs. Nurses and doctors should be protected and our government has let them down.
While our present administration effected large increases in military spending, they cut back on funding for healthcare insurance protections, hospital expansions and they allowed the national stockpile of PPE, ventilators and testing equipment to dwindle to dangerous levels. These errors in action and faulty logistical planning can be documented, but this is not the day to hold the government accountable.
This is a day to honor those who did their jobs, saved lives and moved us toward the solution of a horrible global pandemic. When we see our leaders sink to the level of useless bickering, it ruins the American spirit and creates division rather than a united front to win this medical and economic war. Today I can’t help thinking about my father and the five years of his life he gave up helping to save the world from Nazis.
Our damn politicians don’t fool all of us. We see them go into secret meetings and come out with those lugubrious faces, repeating paltry partisan talking points. They are not heroes; they are cardboard cutouts that will fall with the purity of rain. Real heroes don’t ask for praise or keep repeating how exceptional they are. They wake up, get out of bed and do their job. We must honor them with our words and our actions. We shall move forward, with or without those lame leaders who fail to take care of us. If you only listen to those who you agree with, you will never become stronger. The weak may follow, but the truly brave always lead.