7/4/17: Old Vet’s Patriotism Sorely Tested

Hey, what the hell is happening in my enfeebled brain? We celebrate our Nation’s independence and I approach my 92nd birthday. Isn’t it traditional that the older you get, the more conservative and feverishly patriotic you become?

I was 16 when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought the USA into World War 2. I joined the Navy at age 17 because it was my patriotic duty. And we were willing to give up our young lives as in the lyrics of the Battle Hymn of the Republic: He died to make men holy, so let us die to make men free….

Just a few months before the war ended, 5,800 Marines were killed in March 1945, mostly teens, to capture a little island called Iwo Jima. The war ended in August of the same year, after atomic bombs devastated two Japanese cities, killing 200,000 people, mostly women and children.

My strongest thought now is that dying in any war is stupid and self-destructive. All the patriotic music, recruiting posters, flag-waving and snappy uniforms sucked us naive teenagers in. We were brainwashed to go forth and kill those evil enemy teens to save our beloved nation.

Of course, on the far side of the world, German and Japanese teens were doing the same in preparation to kill us. After WW2, I continued in the Naval Reserve to help pay for college. When the Korean War started in 1950, I was recalled to active duty along with other members of my reserve aircraft carrier unit.

Guess what? Those former Japanese and German enemies were suddenly our best pals, providing airports and seaports, while profiting by selling us war supplies. And the Russians and Chinese, loving allied pals just five years earlier during WW2, were now our deadly enemies.

What’s the idiotic reality of war? At this advanced age, I can no longer be inspired by the patriotic parades and music. To me, war is old guys in fancy uniforms giving each other medals while teens on both sides do the fighting and dying.

Has a war ever produced anything other than useless carnage on battlefields and destruction of cities? And it goes on, when throughout history, politicians, patriots and generals always start another war just a decade or so after the last one. Oh, and by the way, have a safe, happy, peaceful Fourth of July holiday.

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