Serving one's country or one's self

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Coming of age in the 1960’s many of us believed we were standing at the dawn of a new era, but those beliefs were soon over shadowed as television also came of age and through it we saw ourselves on the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union; the assassination of a beloved president; the injustice of inequality and prejudice in the south and in the north; and the escalation and tragic loss of life in Vietnam.

Unlike my childhood friend, Alan Weisman, I was amongst the more fortunate of those conscripted into military service in 1966. I was made neither a combatant nor rear echelon. Rather, I was assigned to a branch of the Army Signal Corp tasked with documenting the readiness posture of other units, major military operations and intelligence, all of which eventually led me into psychological operations aimed at countering a communist insurgency in the northeast region of Thailand and southern Laos and after returning stateside assigned to a team documenting and demonstrating the methods our government would use to subdue our own citizens: Those who had joined the student movement, the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement and, if need be, quashing their protests and civil disobedience at the point of a bayonet and loaded weapon.

Those assignments, at home and abroad, forever changed my view of those whom we elect to serve “We the People...” Mostly well intentioned men who had no understanding of the cause of discontent at home nor of the history and culture in which a conflict may have arisen abroad. Instead they set our nation on the path taking us away from being the Beacon on the Hill to being the world Boots on the Ground. Self-deluded and ill informed men who made one falsehood appear as truth, which required them to invent twenty more falsehoods to maintain the first. A very exhausting process even for the most skilled politician facing what was a vibrant Forth Estate that reported the news with minimal analysis and without the humdrum of commentary.

My friend Alan was conscripted into the Army and sent for Advance Infantry Training and thence assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. He died on November 19, 1966 as “casualty of small arms fire in South Vietnam in a province unknown/not reported”. The military’s report likely meant he was actually killed in eastern Cambodia or the Army had lost its maps. Alan’s name is now inscribed on the Vietnam War Memorial’s Wall: Panel 12E - Row 092.

Today, it bereaves me to think Alan’s young life was sacrificed to protect what we have sown as a nation fifty years later comprised of a populous that has replaced their critical thinking with emotive response to a Television-in-Chief who Tweets duplicity, arrogance and defamation. A draft dodger who perpetuates his messianic delusion of superiority and apocalyptic fear of those whom he makes our enemies at home and abroad, while the power hungry in Congress genuflect and neuter themselves in accommodation and his minions uproariously applaud his evangelical depravity. A businessman who serves only himself as he has for his entire ethically and morally bankrupt life. And that’s my opinion as a veteran who served his country!

Jack Curtis


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