In lieu of thinking up anything to write, I shall post a letter I found while browsing The New Hampshire Gazette online.
Combat Vet Sounds Off on Chickenhawk Database
To the Editor:
Wow!!! For the record, I found your DB when searching Google on “donald rumsfeld” and “military record.” About six items down from the top, the entry [a story by Matthew Engel, from August, 2002, published in the UK paper The Guardian] yielded your URL.
Thanks for doing this. I was born in 1940, graduated from Cal Poly University in 1962 and joined the USAF about 2 steps ahead of my draft board. (I never got a deferment, but they apparently were waiting for me anyway!) I served in Southeast Asia (Republic of Vietnam, Laos, and a little in North Vietnam) from early 1964 to the end of 1967 as a [communications] officer in the US Air Force. Our missions were to take advance communications and air [navigational] aids into fairly crummy places. I’ll spare you the details.
One makes a promise to one’s country when one joins the military. The enlistment and commissioning oaths differ slightly in wording, but both are basically a promise to ‘perform your duties to the best of your ability, anywhere, anytime, no matter what.’ I’ve concluded the “no matter what” and indeed the entire oath, meant and may still mean, nothing to the esteemed president.
On the other hand, after a particularly violent firefight one night, an infantry sergeant and I carried Matthew, a drafted grunt who also had kept his promise to his country, up a hill to the med evac, where they wouldn’t take him. Matthew had bled to death internally on the way up. For Matthew, “no matter what” meant he would not see the sunrise on the second day of his 19th year.
I am saddened and outraged at the same time that the soldiers dying now in Iraq, at the behest of those who had better things to do when their call came, are treated as numbers. Donald Rumsfeld, when asked about the casualties after the president’s photo op on the carrier declaring the major combat phase of the war to be over said, “They’re militarily insignificant.”
Each one of those men was a live person … they were people, and they have names. They’re no longer live people, but they still have names, family, people who will never forget them, and people whose lives will be forever changed.
I’m comfortably retired in Placer County CA, a world of mindless Republicans who tell me I’m unpatriotic and maybe even a traitor for not agreeing with their president and his merry band. It doesn’t matter that I shed my blood in pain to keep my promise to my country, even if it was a really stupid war to start with. If you’ve read this far, thanks for letting me sound off, and you may want to press the delete key now. I’m 63, it’s been 36 years, and you’d think it all would have faded, but unfortunately the comrads who died, and the faces of those people I’ve killed do still visit me. Sounding off sometimes helps. And thanks for your database, it’s a winner!