Niagara Gazette — On a lush Western New York day last summer, with temperature about 85 out (hard to feel in an air-conditioned car), I got back to the Thruway. And I noticed a flag at half mast as I approached this particular booth. I asked if it was some notable who had died, but learned it was “a New York state soldier.”
And I cried beneath my sunglasses, thinking of other American soldiers who have suffered (like that poor young person) in heat that certainly in Iraq or parts of Afghanistan must far exceed anything I could remotely feel that day.
I thought of Americans who had given lives aplenty in earlier hell holes like Guadalcanal, countering a Japanese Empire that few — whether Burmese, Filipinos, or residents of the Dutch East Indies — found easy to bear, to put it mildly.
Then Korea, and on a warm summer day in Western New York, who can feel what Marines endured, swarmed by invading Chinese and cut down in droves during the winter of ‘50-’51 amidst whirling snow and temperatures hitting 20 below? You want to take all this American largesse lightly, or subscribe to the now musty views of late ‘60s “revisionists,” who cynicized such efforts, so costly in lives? And which truly mattered? Where, in fact, would South Koreans of the past 60 years rather have lived — there, or in the cruel, abominable North?
And then Vietnam, and I’m trying not to say the obvious in a few lines, or step on the toes of the many commemorative articles that appear these days. But it’s all been major – and sufferings endured there, too, hugely surpass one’s few paltry words. Imagine fighting in ‘Nam of 1968, when the enemy had at its disposal a couple dozen different Soviet or Chinese-made mines — each step, each rustle of bushes an awful crap shoot. I can’t imagine that existence, but can greatly respect it.