There are things I'll never forget about the army. The ping of the eight-round clip as it automatically ejected from an M1's chamber. (Remember? We could take that rifle completely apart and put it back together again, blindfolded.) My astonishment and sheer joy to be alive after a howitzer round exploded way too close to my forward-observation point. My deep-felt dread when rumors of war had our unit going to Lebanon.
"Smoke 'em if you've got 'em."
Most American men over age 55 have served in the armed forces, one way or another. I learned recently from an American Legion recruitment letter that my service, as it was during one of that century's few peaceful lulls, is deemed too trivial to be eligible for that august organization.
Whatever, from our days in uniform we all know the taste of fear, the smell of cordite, the sting of tear gas in our eyes. We know something of sacrifice, too. And we wholeheartedly believe in its need. Perhaps that is why, when our national anthem is played, you see us older dudes with our hands over our hearts and, often, tears in our eyes.
Little surprise then, to learn that when it comes to supporting our troops fighting in Iraq, we geezers are there for them 100 percent. Even those of us, like me, who believe this war is unjust, unwarranted, and unwise.
Yet because of this stand, I've been accused of troop bashing, even sedition. Many in Washington, with their "either with us or against us" rhetoric, seem unable to understand what all of us trained and, often, fought for: Freedom to voice deep-felt beliefs without fear.
Perhaps if more of them had served instead of being "busy with more important matters" as Dick Cheney claims there would be greater tolerance.
We protesters may be wrong. Know, however, that our dissent does not come lightly, but from our hearts and our love of country.
By the time you read this, our brave troops may well have won the war. I pray that in doing so, we have not lost the peace.
© 2003 Frank Kaiser
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