Five Simple Words
By Randen Pederson
I think we served honorably in an unjust war. The unjust bit wasn't our fault, but still it gets me down. I don't get thanked for my service very often, because I don't advertise my vet status. Therefore it really isn't a problem. I just don't like being thanked because I feel guilty for helping to cause misery to the Vietnamese people for no good end and no good reason.
I'm happy to have served with all my comrades, but unhappy with where the service took place. I feel proud that I was able to step up to the plate and do my bit in spite of being scared out of my gourd sometimes. But again that feels tainted because of the war I was in. In many ways being there was the best bit of my life, and I actually regret not staying on at least until my buddy Ken Cruise left for home. I was pretty fucked up in the head at the end. Probably not worth anything much as a soldier, but maybe it would have passed.
My uncles served in WW II, but my dad was too young. I always looked up to them and wanted to be like them. That was a big reason I enlisted. I feel kind of robbed because my war wasn't nearly as honorable as theirs.
I also don't like the phrase "Thank you for your service" applied to the most recent wars. I have a good friend (infantry) that fought in the 1st Gulf war. I think that one was justified and well conducted even though the government did some lying to drum up support. But Bush Jr's wars based on out-and-out lies were not just, and were certainly not well conducted. These wars have added greatly to the misery of the people in the Middle East. The war in Afghanistan didn't get Bin Laden. We probably could have spent a large sum of money as a bounty, would have been miniscule compared to what that war cost. Someone would have sold that bastard out. But no. Bush wanted to be the "War President"and show up his dad.
Thank you for your service. I don't like the phrase because I don't want to be in support of our continued bullying of other peoples. Intellectually I separate soldiers from policies, but emotionally that doesn't work. Therefore I don't like the phrase, especially when it is said to me. It's embarrassing really.
Randen Pederson served with Bravo 1/7 First Cavalry Division 1969-70.
This essay is one of many that appear in the Five Simple Words project on Medic in the Green Time.com, run by VVAW member Marc Levy.