Faith in God and country
By A. Ray Lee
A grey haired veteran recently paused at my table to visit with me for a moment as I finished breakfast in a local restaurant. Like many of those who shared his experiences in battle, he has health issues related to service in Vietnam. Even worse than the physical ailments and disabilities he has carried since those days are the psychological effects of his experiences. Sometime ago another veteran sat down with me to discuss his years of military service. He was a B52 bomber pilot who never knew if his plane might be shot down over Hanoi as had been those of a number of his friends. He recalled the division in his family concerning his participation in the war.
Sadly, it seems a generation of young men who went to fight for our county did not have the full support of the politicians who sent them into battle without a clear mission. When the survivors returned home, for many years they were neglected and ignored without honor or esteem for their sacrificial service. The Vietnam Memorial was not erected until many years later.
The decade of the 1960s were troubled and divisive years in American society. There was a powerful counter-culture movement against conservative and faith based norms led by activist university students and fostered by professors in liberal universities. In search of a visible symbol for their rebellion the growing unpopularity of the war in Vietnam became their focus. Young men eligible for the military draft burnt their cards in rebellion while others fled to Canada beyond the reach of authorities. American flags were burnt in the streets where protestors chanted “H— no, we won’t go.”
But there were other young men who retained their faith in God and in their county. By their actions they echoed the words of Stephen Decatur who had avowed: “My country, right or wrong”. Stan, the son of a minister, was such an individual. He was an excellent student but refused to seek a college or ministerial deferment. He believed his call to minister was best expressed in service to his country. Not waiting to be drafted he joined the army and was assigned to the 101st airborne division as he desired. Eventually he was sent to Vietnam where he paid the supreme sacrifice.
Let us not forget a generation of young men who stood for us. This 4th of July let us remember and honor those who with valor and courage served our nation in Vietnam. My draft classification of 4F (physical deferment) had exempted me from being one of them. For those who served in my stead I say a belated thank you.