The Defining Generation
When it comes to venting anger Doug is one of the coolest people I know. His favorite line is, "I did my fighting 35 years ago and I'm tired." In fact, in the 32 years we have been married I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've seen him lose his cool. Sometimes it is infuriating. We've had our share of bitter battles as husband and wife and Doug is not generally inclined to hold in his anger or his side of the argument. Still, more often than not after I've laid into him with all the verbal abuse my anger over a particular disagreement can muster he just puts his hands on his hips, looks at me condescendingly and calmly say, "There, do you feel better now?" In fact I don't--at such times his sarcastically paternal and self-righteous response has pushed me nearly to the brink of murder!
We were married in
January 1975 so we were still in that early phase of learning about each
other on the last day of April when television news began showing images
of American helicopters plucking the last Americans along with a few
hapless and helpless Vietnamese off the rooftops of the American Embassy
Before I met Doug I was
what might be called a "wannabe" flower child. In fact, I was in
middle school when Doug went to
It started innocently
enough a few months after we watched
Instead of simply turning off the television set he went into an uncontrollable rage. One moment he was hugging me and the next he was jerking the television from the wall, cord and all, no small feat since it was a 3' high console. How I kept him from literally throwing the set through the window and out of our apartment I'll never know. Even when I finally convinced him to somewhat gently set it down it took forever to calm him down. That day I learned that there was one name that would never be uttered in our household.
From Berkeley With Love
When I was bussed
from the holding station near
On a cold, drizzly day six months later I was at LZ Nancy near the DMZ when our commanding officer called a special meeting. We all crowded into a large tent and almost immediately the gathering took on one of the eerie "secret mission" scenes from the World War II movies I had watched as a kid. We all new something was up as only a few days earlier my platoon leader, Lieutenant Robert M. Gribble, had been pulled out of LZ Nancy for some super secret mission.*
When he had our attention our C.O. announced that he was seeking volunteers to form a single squad for a very secret mission. He couldn't give us any details other than that the following day we would have to convoy north to the old Special Forces camp at Mai Loc. I was the company's perennial volunteer but on this day I balked. I wanted desperately to be part of the mission but because it sounded so grim I didn't want to lead the squad with all the related responsibility I would have to carry. I waited until one of our Staff Sergeant's volunteered to lead and by that time I almost lost out in my bid to become his assistant squad leader. Our C.O. pointed out that I was assigned that night to serve as "bunker sergeant" so it probably wouldn't work out anyway. I told him that I could sleep during the convoy to Mai Loc the following day and literally begged to go. He relented.
Everyone was very hushed that night…even the men who had not volunteered or those who had volunteered and not been selected were quiet. If this was as dangerous as the C.O. had made it sound some of our comrades would not be coming back. Those of us who HAD been selected were unusually quiet.
That night while
making the rounds I stopped at a bunker overlooking the river that
formed part of our perimeter. The NCOs always knew the guys on that
bunker listened to the radio while on duty and overlooked it as the
river drowned out the sound. As I climbed the ladder to their perch I
could hear they were listening to a program out of
After finishing her
spiel she played a professionally-sounding radio spot, not at all unlike
the typical public service announcements you still hear every day on the
radio. What made it unique was that the announcer spoke perfect English.
He reminded we American soldiers in
It all struck a funny chord in my mind and I threw back my head and laughed out loud.
One week later our
squad was back at LZ Nancy…the actual mission had proven to be
anti-climactic to its buildup. Ours was the Engineer squad that led the
way to re-open the
The two months
following that mission was the only time during my two tours of duty in
While there were no
doubt such incidences, I knew that they were not occurring with the
frequency with which they were being reported, and that any such
examples were dwarfed by the number of ARVNs who bravely went into
combat to do their job and often die for their own country. I came to
hate the war protestors, not for what they said about me and my American
comrades, but for belittling a people I had come to love. I had
witnessed many acts of heroism by ARVN soldiers and was personally aware
of several instances in which an ARVN soldier risked, and sometimes gave
his life to save an American. In March I finally vented my frustration
by sending a letter home to the
To say that I was
then, and even that I remain today somewhat "hawkish" would be
an understatement. When I was a Senior in high school in 1968 my
government teacher, Mr. Jerry L. Agen, assigned our class a project to
write a paper about the Vietnam War that included two pages PRO and two
pages CON. Mine was titled "Bullets or Bondage" and had the
requisite two page argument against the war and 40 pages of reasons why
I believed it was just. Mr. Agen was against the war but wrote on my
paper, "Doug, while I disagree with your premise herein, what you
write reflects the spirit that has made
While serving in
When I came home in
1972 and was discharged at
Three decades later I
watched television as the
On the day of my presentation I first was treated to breakfast at a local restaurant by a school administrator. My father, sitting at the table with us and knowing I tend to the "hawkish" side of the political spectrum sought to reassure me. "This town is VERY patriotic," he told me. "Don't worry about pulling any punches this morning when you speak." Knowing how I planned to begin my presentation I wondered then if I was about to give him a big dose of disappointment.
Hundreds of high school students were crammed into chairs before me as I walked to the front of the room in my Army uniform after being introduced. At the very back of the auditorium sat my five adult step-brothers, every one of them equally hawkish. They had come to watch with pride the presentation by their oldest brother.
I looked across the
room and then began: "I've been told that
I needn't have worried…those who oppose a popular (at that time) ideal are generally not shy. One young man on the front row raised his hand. I walked over to stand in front of him while the room became quite still. "I have just two words for you, young man," I stated and then paused. You could have heard a pin drop. "Thank you!" I announced loudly. In the back my brothers slouched down in their chairs in embarrassment while I'm sure my father began to worry that I had gone liberal on him. Then I explained.
"I thank God
that there are those who oppose this, or any war. I disagree with
you…I believe you are wrong. I'm a 'hawk' I'll admit. The thing is, if
everyone thought exactly like I do the
Then, before spending the bulk of my presentation defending WHY I believed in the Iraq War I spoke to those students who comprised the vast majority in the room and who believed like I did. "You need to respect this young man, and any others in this room who oppose the war. I didn't say you have to agree with them but they have earned your respect. It takes REAL COURAGE to stand up for what you believe, especially when it is the minority opinion and everyone else thinks you are wrong. There is nothing more American than freedom of speech, and by showing the courage to stand up for what he believes, this young man is a model American."
As in fact, our battalion's finest officer, Lieutenant Gribble was
tasked with leading the Engineer units that reopened Khe Sanh and
then supported activities for two months during the Lam Son 719
mission. It was a difficult job during which he did an admirable job
under the most tragic of circumstances. We heard reports of his work
but didn't see him again until he returned to LZ Nancy on
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