For some 18 years or so, attorney John “Kiks” Kikol has done a very impressive job organizing an event on the last Sunday of April devoted to show support for our active military and for veterans. The first one I went to was around six years ago.It was too chilly that day to wear my vintage dress uniform, so I wore my 1966 U.S. Army field jacket issued to me at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was surrounded by black leather clad motorcyclists whose attire was complemented by red-white -and blue star-spangled bandannas. I figured, well, for reasons of personal safety, I ought not unfurl my peace flag, allowing only the red and white stripes to show, certain the macho bikers would assume I was carrying an American flag.. I became even more resolute in my decision when “Kiks” mentioned at the microphone that when he saw people on Public Square years earlier protesting the war in Iraq, he wanted to run them over. Well, okay, that cemented the deal for me. I kept my peace flag furled. In subsequent years of the rally, however, I carried my unfurled flag while wearing my vintage Army duds and was greeted with stunned, but respectful silence. Some even came up to shake my hand and thank me for my service. Kiks never gave me any grief and over the past couple of years we have had pleasant conversations. He even treated me to lunch at the Landmark restaurant at W. 117th Street and Clifton Boulevard a few weeks ago. The lunch was subsequent to a surprising offer he made via e-mail to speak at today’s Rally For Troops.I was one of several speakers today, others including two Gold Star mothers who lost sons in our wars in the Middle East. Before and after the event, I again was met with stunned, albeit respectful silence–save for a comment made by a man after the conclusion of the rally. He said my speech was “disrespectful.” Here it is. Judge for yourself.
Thank you, Kiks, for inviting me to provide comments from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran who also is a member of Veterans for Peace. When I was drafted in 1966, I was what you might call a “baby hawk” as opposed to the aging, elderly dove that I am today. I softly supported the Vietnam War, accepting our government’s claim that communist North Vietnam was trying to take over South Vietnam; South Vietnam was our ally and therefore we had a moral obligation to defend South Vietnam.
Over the years, however, I came to realize our government manipulates us with alarmist, fear-mongering rhetoric. Political leaders at both ends of the spectrum are guilty of such unconscionable manipulation. For example, President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, intimated in a speech in the 1960s that if we did not defeat the communists in Vietnam, we would be fighting them here. Of course, that did not happen.
Here’s another example of alarmist, fear mongering rhetoric. President George W. Bush, a Republican, lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction. Excuse me, Mr. Bush. Please look in the mirror. You YOU are the one with Weapons of Mass Destruction.
When we kill people and destroy property with our WMDs we generate more hatred for the United States among survivors of our attacks and make it very easy for terrorist leaders to recruit new terrorists. Revenge REVENGE is the operative word in this tragic scenario. As we all know, of course, revenge is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. He would not be happy with those taking the lives of many of His father’s other children.
Survivors of our attacks want revenge, just as WE wanted revenge after we were attacked on 9/11, which led to a dramatic increase in military enlistments. We have been sucked into a never-ending extremely costly and bloody downward spiral. Well, on that happy note, I’d like to offer a somewhat whimsical idea that I think would be very effective in generating good will for us in the Middle East among survivors of our attacks who currently hate us.
Here’s the idea: Have transport planes parachute drop large pallets enveloped in clear plastic with the words: “United States of America” on the plastic, with the pallets landing in populated areas. And what would be on those pallets? Hundreds and hundreds of boxes…of Girl Scout COOKIES!!. Oh, YEAH!! Who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies? Everyone loves Girl Scout cookies!! And I’m positive that would include our sisters and brothers in war-torn Middle Eastern countries. We would convert survivors of our attacks from haters of the United States into lovers of the United States.
Well, enough of the whimsy. I’d like to finish on a somber, serious note. My heart goes out to Gold Star parents, especially ESPECIALLY Gold Star mothers, since they are the ones who bring new life into this world. I think we would all agree, regardless of our opinions on war and other social issues, that losing a child is a parent’s absolute worst WORST nightmare. I am so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for listening, and thanks again, John, for inviting me.