My awesome-possum dad, Tom Foster, served four years in the Air Force during the Vietnam Conflict. He would sometimes tell us stories sometimes about being in the military, but they were always about funny stuff- how the drill sergeants would act (have you ever cleaned out the inside of your toothpaste tube nozzle?) and how he was well-prepared for the military, because he had been raised by Juanita (his mom) and three older sisters. He was used to being told what to do. 😉 Sometimes we would hear about crazy stuff he and his buddies did (ask him about putting the giant snake in the trunk of the taxi) and the food he liked best.
He never talked much about the darker side of war, other than to tell us about the man named on his POW/MIA bracelet. Dad was an airplane mechanic crew chief, and he got to know the pilots that flew in his planes well. One of them flew out on a mission one day and never came back. On a family trip to DC when I was in elementary school, Dad made a rubbing of his buddy's name at the Vietnam Memorial. He didn't talk much about it; we didn't ask.
But this year my boss's daughter was looking for vets that she could interview for a project in her history class, and she asked if my dad would be willing to participate. He did and after the interview she sent me the transcript of the interview. I was eager to read it. Most of it was more or less what I expected to see, but one part of the conversation took me by surprise. That was Dad's perspective on sending troops to war.
Dad and I don't agree on a whole lot politically, but what he said in that part of the interview is something I can get behind with all my heart. I'm posting it here (with his permission).
K: Is there anything else you would want my generation, or people in general, to know about the Vietnam War?
T: I think I maybe already shared it, but let’s don’t get into a war sacrificing and risking the lives of Americans if we aren’t there to win it. Doing it for just political reasons, or financial reasons, is wrong. Those are no reasons to have a war.... I just think that if we are going to get involved in a war, we should be in it to win.
K: I really like that perspective a lot. Thank you so much for helping me better understand this part of history, and thank you for serving our country.
T: You bet! And, just a little thing for you. If you would, don’t forget. Don’t forget your history, history is so important - the old stuff that happened years ago. But I was always told that if you forget your history, you are bound to repeat it down the road sometime. Never forget that.
K: I won’t. Thank you so much.
I don't always agree with where we have troops and why, but I am always thankful for those willing to serve. It bears repeating that if we're going to ask people to literally risk their lives, the very least we can do is support them as fully as possible. Go big or go home. If we're not in 100%, we should be 100% out.
On this Veterans Day, I'm thankful for the service that the men and women in our military, and their families back home. I'm thankful for my Dad's willingness to serve, and so grateful that he came home. And most of all I look forward to the day when all wars will cease and there will be no more tearful goodbyes or heartbreaking notices from foreign lands. Lord Jesus, come soon!
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