Me the Patriot and the Realities of War

Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families.

Benjamin Rush, Letter to His Fellow Contrymen: On Patriotism,
October 20, 1773

As a writer I tend to spread my thoughts around. From notes to myself, emails to others, to Facebook posts and my own personal history (to be shared with my family) and to this blog to be shared with the world.

What follows is a compilation of all those things I think about when I think of patriotism and my love for country and the awful necessity of war.

A little of it may have already been shared here, but things of such weighty measure are often worth repeating.

I joined the Air Force the day after my 19th birthday and served at Danang Air Base in South Vietnam during the war. I was blessed beyond measure to have been born in this country. It was the least I could do for it. Duty doesn’t require thanks.

I’ve never, ever looked at my service as a sacrifice, nor as a selfless act. Those were among the best years of my life and with them came many opportunities. I came away so much more the benefactor. My life has been enriched and rewarded in innumerable ways by it. Joining the military was one of the best decisions of my life.

If I am a prideful person it’s for two reasons: I’m proud to have served in the military and I am a very proud American. One of the greatest honors I’ve had was the privilege of wearing my Air Force uniform.

I’m proud in knowing that I served my country in a righteous cause of preserving freedom, and was discharged honorably from that service. I am proud that I will forever hold the title of a “veteran” and look forward to someday being buried among other veterans in a national cemetery designated for that purpose.

I will forever remember those I knew personally, who never returned to their homes and family. The 6 crew members of a B-52 who frequented our fire station for the good food and vending machines; The F-105 pilot whose ejection seat malfunctioned killing him and another Air Force firefighter on my crew; and finally a high school classmate, Robert Bolt “R.B.” Dickerson a Marine killed in South Vietnam in May of 1971. My high school alumni lost about a dozen young men killed in Vietnam.

There were a few others I knew and served with who paid the ultimate price and whose names I no longer remember. Of course there are tens of thousands more from that era, and from various wars and conflicts before and after. I have friends and relatives who suffered the scars of battle, both physical and mental.

For many years I defended our presence in Vietnam despite the huge loss of life and the other immense costs associated with it. A few years ago however I changed my mind. I came to realize we should never have gone there. Despite the noble cause we had in doing so, we should never have gotten into a war we didn’t intend to finish. Unfortunately the politicians thought otherwise. The huge price we paid in blood and treasure was clearly not worth it.

In Vietnam we’ve finally reached the end of the tunnel. and there is no light there.

Walter Cronkite, 30 Apr 1975

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4 thoughts on “Me the Patriot and the Realities of War

  1. Right on Rick. A bit earlier I was in the “Police Action” . I feel about your experience with Vietnam the same way. I do think Korea was a different situation though.

    With regard to military service, it was a very rewarding experience and I wouldn’t change it (except maybe the KP) for anything. 🙂

  2. Hey Rick, good post. Of course Vietnam was my parents (and yours) generation while we have had Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m a 19-yr Marine Corps pilot and two-time veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom plus one more deployment on a ship around the Arabian Gulf. Met some great guys and have a bunch of stories. Being a veteran helps to see the world a bit differently.

  3. You are a true warrior. You do it for the public. You get the confidence and pride even though it comes from hardship. From losing friends. But is the rank that you have acquired in the heart of life. As a true pilot of the army and veterans Army uniform It suits you.

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