North Carolina Newspapers is powered by Chronam.
Edward M. Sweatt and Carolyn H. Sweatt Publishers
Lynn Sweatt Carlson Editor
Susan Usher Mews Editor
Doug Rutter Sports Editor
Eric Carlson Stqff Writer
Mary Potts ? Peggy Earwcod Office Managers
Morrey Thomas Advertising Director
Linda Cheers and Anne Tatuni Advertising Representatives
Dorothy Brennan & Brenda Clemmons Moore Graphic Artists
William Manning Pressman
Lonnle Sprinkle Assistant Pressman
PAGE 4 -A, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 1994
American Veterans Have
Earned Place At The Table
BY WILLIAM M. DETWEILER
A citizen telephoned the American Legion's National Head
quarters in Indianapolis recently to say that he didn't think veter
ans deserve any special recognition, honor or benefits.
It was the caller's opinion that America's wartime veterans
have given no more or no less to our country than any other citi
zen who goes to work each day and otherwise does his or her
It's a fair question: Why do we celebrate Veterans Day?
First, the U.S. Constitution grants citizens the right to assem
ble peaceably and the freedom to speak our minds. Many
Americans in 1994 take such rights for granted.
But we have only to look at the many trouble spots around
the world, some very close to home, to know how fragile and
rare are the freedoms that we enjoy.
Second, because of the tremendous contribution America's
veterans have made to the defense of our nation, it's important to
honor these individuals. Nov. 11, the date of which World War I
was officially concluded, has been designated for this purpose.
Third, veterans do recognize the contributions of all
Americans who pitched in and did their part on the home front
General Douglas MacArthur described America's citizen-sol
dier as "one of the world's noblest figures."
Recalling two world wars, MacArthur said:
"In memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of
the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a
weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging
ankle-deep through the mire of shell-pocked roads; to form
grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud,
chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective
and, for many, to the judgment seat of God.
"And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the
filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime
of dripping dugouts, those boiling suns of relentless heat, those
torrential rains of devastating storms. ..the bitterness of long
separation from those they loved and cherished, the deadly
pestilence oj tropical disease, the norror oj stricken areas of
... ? ?
Author James Brady, a Marine during the Korean War, has
written this about his experiences:
"We stayed on the line once through January and February
for 46 days. Never washed never changed clothes, and we ate
from tin cans. No fresh fruit, no milk, no bread. Our faces were
pitted with pustules and blackheads and in the cold, mucus froze
solid on our nostrils and upper lips and our eyes were
bloodshot... and twitched from fatigue.
"And you try to keep it hanging together when a friend of
yours is killed or loses an eye or his hands and try to forget what
dead men look like hanging on barbed wire in the morning and
you have fought again through the night. "
Here's how Marsha Young, a Desert Storm veteran, de
scribed her experiences:
"The monsoon rains flooded us, the Scuds attacked us, and
the locals harassed the American women.
"Water made our chemical suit's ineffective against any
agents in the Scud warheads. We had no showers for 11 days.
With water and toilet paper rationing, constant sand storms,
100-plus degree weather, no tampons, no laundry, Scud attacks
and sniper fire, I took, became the animal within...
"I live today with what is called the Saudi Syndrome. My
utmost respect goes to the combat veterans whatever the war,
whatever the gender. "
Indeed. In war after war, America's veterans have returned
home iii need of mcdics! help, an e^-jcation and a job. Yet time
and time again, veterans have had to fight for these things, too ?
for benefits that a grateful nation should bestow upon its defend
ers like a crown of laurel.
With their blood, their sweat and their tears, America's veter
ans have earned their place at the table.
William M. Detweiler is national commander of the American
m I am a Shawnee. My forefathers were warriors. Their son is
a warrior. From them I take only my existence. From my
tribe 1 take nothing. I am the maker of my own fortune. And
oh, that I might make the fortunes of my red people, and of
my country, as great as the conceptions of my mind, when I
think of the Great Spirit that rules this universe.
m A fanatic is one who can 't change his mind and won 't
change the subject. ? Sir Winston C hurchill
m In anguish we uplift/ A new unhallowed song
The race is to the swift;/ The battle to the strong.
? John Davidson
m No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it
out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and as to
superstition, beliefs and what you may call principles, they
are less than chaff in a breeze.
? Joseph Conrad
I'm Dreaming Of A Revised Christmas
Overheard (verbatim) in the
housewares section of a local de
partment store during the second
week of October:
"Y'all got your tree up yet?"
"Naw, I done all my other deco
ratin', but I ain't put up my tree
I'm wondering how one adorns a
Halloween tree when it becomes
clear to me that the Joyous Holiday
Season has oozed backward from
December, through November, and
has broken into the line in front of
More comfortable with denial
than epiphany, I shake it off and tip
toe my shopping cart on past those
two silly women. I do not make eye
1 then cruise to the Outdoor Fun
Department to pick up a new grill
brush and a sack of hickory chips
where I discover that those items
have been prematurely yanked from
the shelves to make space for gift
wrap and bows, strings of lights,
reasonable facsimiles of trees, cans
of synthetic evergreen scent, and
cheesy four-foot plastic candles.
SHEESH! How can it be Christ
mastime when last night the mos
quito truck sprayed past our house?
1 should have paid attention to the
foreshadowing. In September I
heard the year's first commercial for
a Christmas album. And recently,
sandwiched in among the many tele
vised political advertisements (is
that Charlie Rose an adorable scamp
or what?) you'd occasionally see a
Salad Shooter commercial, the true
harbinger of the modern Season of
Charging ? I mean Giving.
One of the life lessons handed
down from my father during my for
mative years was that it's not
Christmas until Santa buzzes in over
the snow on the floating heads of a
cordless rechargeable electric sha
ver. And that's not supposed to hap
pen until the Thanksgiving dishes
I have nothing against Christmas,
but I don't appreciate its interfering
with Thanksgiving. In fact, my lost
lost faith in the goodness of the hu
man spirit would be restored if
Americans revolted against the crass
commercialism of the Yuletidc once
and for all.
If I had my way, adults wouldn't
give each other storebought Christ
mas presents. Spending on kids
would be limited to $10 apiece un
less you were giving them bicycles
or pianos or something similarly
worthwhile. (Nothing that runs off
batteries or has "joy sticks" would
And there would be no trace of
holiday madness until at least the
middle of December.
A very funny writer named
Calvin Trillin ( American Fried,
Alice Let's Eat and Third Helpings)
once proposed a similar revamping
of the Thanksgiving tradition. It
didn't catch on, but have a bite of
his story anyway:
In England, a iong time ago,
there were people called Pilgrims
who were very strict about making
sure everyone observed the
Sabbath and cooked food without
any flavor and that sort of thing,
and they decided to go to America
where they could enjoy Freedom to
Nag. The other people in England
said, "Glad to see the back of
In America, the Pilgrims tried
farming, but they couldn If get much
done because they were always
putting their farmers in the stocks
for crimes like Suspicion of
Cheerfulness. The Indians took pity
on the Pilgrims, and helped them
with their farming, even though the
Indians thought the Pilgrims were
about as much fun as teenage
The Pilgrims were so grateful
that at the end of their first year in
America they invited the Indians
over for a Thanksgiving meal. The
Indians, having had some
experience with Pilgrim cuisine
during the year, took the precaution
of taking along one dish of their
own. They brought a dish that their
ancestors had learned many
generations lyefore from none other
than Christopher Columbus, who
?voj known to th.e Indians as "the
big Italian fellow. " The dish was
spaghetti carbonara ? made with
pancetta bacon and fontina and the
best imported prosciutto.
The Pilgrims hated it. They said
it was "heretically tasty " and "the
work of the devil" and "the sort of
thing foreigners eat. " The Indians
were so disgusted that on the way
back to their village after dinner
one of them made a remark about
the Pilgrims that was repeated
down through, the years and
unfortunately caused confusion
among historians about the first
Thanksgiving meal. He said, " What
a bunch of turkeys.'"
Every now and then you have to
stir the stew or all the good bites
will sink, stick and start to stink.
That's lame alliteration intended to
mean Tradition Be Darned.
Spaghetti carbonara instead of
turkey? Wouldn't hurt my feelings.
A Christmas season that doesn't
begin until Dec. 20? A girl can
dream, can't she?
We Were Soldiers And Protesters... And Young
"He told the world that
Americans would "pay any price,
bear any burden, meet any hard
ship" in the defense of freedom. We
were the down payment on that
costly contract. But the man who
signed it was not there when we
fulfilled his promise. John F.
Kennedy waited for us on a hill in
Arlington National Cemetery, and
in time we came by the thousands
to fill those slopes with our white
marble markers and to ask on the
murmur of the wind if that was tru
ly the future he had envisioned for
? From We Were Soldiers
by Lt.Gen. Harold G. Moore
(Ret.) and Joseph Galloway.
Ap Bac... Arc light... Air Cav...
Arvin... boo-coo... boonierat... cher
ry... Claymore... DEROS... dew... di
di mau... dust off... H & I... hootch...
Hue... I Corps... Ia Drang... Jolly
Green Giant... Khe Sanh... LAWs...
LRRPs ... LZ... MACV... mad
minute... Montagnard... PAVN...
Phoenix... Plain of Reeds...
Pleiku...riki tik.. .ruff puff... slick...
tee-tee... thumper... Victor Charlie...
white mice... Willie Peter... The
To most people, those words rep
resent total gibberish.
To some, they conjure indelible
memories; of heat, dust, stench, jun
gle, boredom, homesickness, confu
sion, terror, bravery, friendship and
coming home. ..from The Nam.
Others will recognize the vocabu
lary of an unforgettable era; of draft
cards, call ups, crowds, banners, bull
horns, tear gas, riot gear, billy clubs,
paddy wagons and friends who nev
er came home...from The Nam.
Friday is Veterans Day. A time to
pause and reflect on the sacrifices
made by men and women who gave
a portion, if not all, of their lives to
defend the United States of
For anyone who lived through the
Wo.id Wars, the reflections are posi
tive and unambiguous. Their veter
ans fought and died in a conflict that
was clearly a struggle for survival
between "us" and "them."
But for we of the Vietnam era.
Veterans Day stirs up old animosi
ties and confusion about who "us"
and "them" really were.
There is a deeply rooted, perhaps
unshakable belief among many
Vietnam era veterans that "them" ?
the enemy ? included anyone who
actively opposed the policies that
got us into Southeast Asia and kept
us there for nearly 20 years.
The feeling is understandable, but
also saddening. Because we ? the
ones who went to war and the ones
who tried to stop it ? will someday
be the only Americans to remember
or understand or care about what
happened during that tumultuous
Contrary to revisionist belief,
most of us who demonstrated
against the Vietnam war maintained
a great respect for the soldiers who
were sent there. They were our
brothers and sisters and cousins and
uncles and fathers and friends who
went to war and sometimes didn't
come back. The ones who did return
were forever changed.
We did not hate them. We hated
what was happening to them. We
hated watching their bloodied bodies
dragged through the grass toward
medcvac helicopters. Wc hated see
ing them in wheelchairs. We hated
imagining them in (lag-draped
Anti-war demonstrations were
chaotic and loud and full of bombas
tic pronouncements by would-be
"revolutionaries." But I personally
don't remember anyone, ever, de
scribing American G.I.S as "baby
I know it happened. I know some
returning soldiers were heckled and
spit upon by overzealous protesters.
I do remember seeing people wrap
themselves in the flag of North
And I know it deeply hurt and an
gered anyone whose comrades were
killed by an enemy defending that
flag. Veterans have every right to be
unforgiving about that.
But such thoughtless incidents
were the exception, not the rule.
Even so, they have become the im
ages by which the anti-war move
ment is judged. Which isn't fair.
Any more than the peaceful efforts
of anti-abortion activists should be
judged by the bombing of clinics or
the murder of doctors.
At the demonstrations I remem
ber, any vet who wanted to speak
was given priority at the micro
phones. Their words had weight.
Members of the Vietnam Veterans
Against the War ? many on crutches
or in wheelchairs ? usually led the
marches. No one doubted they had
earned the right.
It wasn't until later, after much
reading and talking with vets, that I
began to grasp something of what
those soldiers went through in
Vietnam. I came to understand why
they should be forever proud of their
I hope someday those veterans
come to understand what we were
trying to accomplish: to bring them
safely home. And that some of us
still remember. Some of us still care.
In the laic 1960s, Life magazine
published an issue with a cover story
titled. "One Week's Toll " It was
like a school yearbook, with page
after page of hopeful faces staring
out of little black-and-white pho
It was a class of about 200. But
the students would never graduate
They had all been killed in Vietnam.
Not in one year, in just seven days.
Looking at those faces, some not
much older than myself, affected me
deeply. I began carefully cutting out
each photograph I bought a second
copy of the magazine, so I could
preserve every face on both sides of
I penciled a large circle on my
bedroom wall and carefully taped
each face around the perimeter. The
remaining photographs were used to
transform the circle into a giant
I lived with those faces at the foot
of my bed for the remainder of my
high school years. They gazed down
at me each morning. I looked up at
them before turning out the light.
Over time, the empty spaces in
side the peace sign were filled with
other photographs. These were col
orful magazine images of young
people, just like those soldiers ? just
like me ? enjoying the benefits of
They were running through fields
of wildflowers. Laughing with girl
friends. Frolicking on the beach.
Having fun at rock concerts.
Demonstrating against the war.
Exercising freedoms worth fight- |
I still think about those faces on
the wall sometimes. I thought about
them as I gazed at the 58, (XX) names
on the wall at the Vietnam War
Memorial. I remember seeing my
own face reflected in the shiny black
granite. I remember a single word
entering my mind.