Tag Archives: Vietnam Veterans National Memorial

Hey Mitch, ‘boots’ are people, too

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Politicians love speaking in code, particularly when the use of direct language makes ’em look, oh, bloodthirsty.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said this week we need to “put more boots on the ground” in the war against the Islamic State.

Boots on the ground. There it is … yet again!

McConnell is a fine man, a dedicated public servant. I don’t believe he’s a war-mongering chicken hawk, but I wish he could instruct those around him — namely his fellow politicians — to stop speaking in code.

“Boots on the ground” has become the clichĂ© du jour for politicians who lack the guts to say what they really mean. Which is that putting “boots on the ground” means we should “send young Americans into battle.”

I harken back to the protest chant from those who complained that “old men shouldn’t be sending young men into war.”

All this brave talk from politicians about boots seems to gloss over the human cost of fighting these conflicts. Yes, the young men and women who fly combat missions in high-speed, high-performance aircraft put themselves in harm’s way, too — but we don’t hear politicians refer to their deployment as “putting rear ends in cockpits.”

My wife and have toured the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial in Angel Fire, N.M. It features letters written from that battlefield by young men, many of whom died in defense of their country. We came out of the exhibit. My wife was in tears.

“Every politician who decides to send people to war needs to come here first,” she said.

Yes. They also need to stop using euphemisms to tell us what they really intend to do regarding matters that involve young Americans’ precious lives.

 

‘Every politician … needs to come here’

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Not too many years after moving to the Texas Panhandle, my wife and I ventured west into New Mexico and discovered something in the resort community of Angel Fire that moved us both profoundly.

It’s the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial.

It was conceived and developed by a man whose son, David, was among the 58,000 Americans who died during the Vietnam War.

Mere words cannot begin to describe the power and pathos contained inside this memorial. It features the words of those who died. It tells the story — through letters written to loved ones back home and in diaries — of their fear, their apprehension, of their pride in the service to their country and of their love for each other as brothers in arms.

The late Victor Westphall’s memorial to his son comes to my mind today as the nation celebrates Memorial Day. President Obama laid a wreath today at the Tomb of the Unknown. Other memorials today will be visited by those who cherish the memories of those who have died in defense of the nation. We’ll pay appropriate tribute to those who gave their “last full measure of devotion.”

My wife and I took our time walking through this memorial. We tried to read every word that was written by the young warriors — and about them.

We emerged from the chapel. My wife’s eyes were moist. So were mine.

“Every politician who ever sends young men to war,” she said, “needs to come here and see this place.”