The Epistle of James, Chapter 4: “Where do the conflicts and disputes among you originate? You envy and you cannot acquire, so your quarrel and fights.”
It is an appropriate opening statement to my questions: Why wars?
I served honorably, though reluctantly at times, in three wars. They were wars of attrition because thousands died in the killing fields, only those who were “there” can visualize for us the horrors they experienced. I cannot. I never fired a shot at the “enemy.” Those who did, and died, in no way died in vain, because they were committed to doing their duty — without hesitation or regrets. They are our anointed in the corner of paradise that is set aside for them.
But what if there were not wars? There would be no widows, nor orphans. No tears of anguish, of despair need be shed.
World War II did not sneak up on us. Records divulge that Churchill and Roosevelt met secretly before the United States declared war. England needed help to survive the aerial bombing. Our country was static in maintaining our isolation policy. But Roosevelt needed a crutch to relieve our country from the throes of depression. War was the vehicle to allow it. The greedy Japanese empire provided the final stamp of approval — by bombing Pearl Harbor.
What if there were never a Stalin, a Hitler, or a Hirohito? Instead of the plants and factories spitting out airplanes and tanks, what would the nation be busy doing? One can only imagine. Roosevelt would still deal with the economy. The National Recovery Act would not be abolished — putting people back to work instead of selling apples on street corners. Maybe, just maybe, my family would have no need of continuing slaving out in the fields. I would complete Junior College and probably onto a university, instead of being introduced to a drill sergeant of the Marine Corps. No need for the torrent of tears shed by my mother, nor the sad look of my father with a “God keep you, my son.” My baby sister, Rosemary, was unaware of the significance of my departure. She did not know what “war” was. She was safely buried in her childhood fantasies. How fortunate!
Finally, peace! Germany surrendered on May 9, 1945. The atom bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan ending the war on August 14, 1945. A war to end all wars? Someone dreamed it up.
Korea! Why become embroiled in another conflict? Save a republic? Retard Communism? It had to be for a cause, otherwise our fallen heroes would have died in vain. They and I were called to active duty on July 21, 1950. Ours was not to reason why. Ours was to simply obey the call to arms by our country.
Again, as in World War II, I had no encounter with the “enemy.” I never did get to Korea. I was ordered to recruiting duty in Fresno, CA. From there to San Francisco and then to Guam.
I was working for the State of California when I was called to active duty. I had married Dolores in 1948, and later Raquel was born. My wife had not planned on being a military wife or having a husband sent to war. We were living in Mountain View, leading a normal life. No worries of having to move. No concern about a place called Korea. The best of everything, that we would have many empty national cemeteries. Christmas at home. Empty, of course, would be minds free of anxieties, of frustrations, of living on the edge. No headlines in the newspapers of battles won or lost. People would never had learned about Pusan, Chosin, Ichon, Seoul. It would have been a different world.
It seems that some nations suffer from an itching problem. An itch for war. Atarax would never offer a total cure.
Vietnam. My third war. Even today no person, no government, has an answer to my question “why?” Why the need for 58,000 casualties? What answer can offer to the widows, orphans, parents? For me, it was duty. I was a professional member of the Marine Corps.
I have never claimed to know how a marine felt being in the jungle fighting the enemy. I was stationed in a helicopter base. Somewhat safe, but still vulnerable to attack. It was an eerie feeling on my return home from Vietnam. I felt as if I was being punished for being in Vietnam. The public quickly forgot those who returned in aluminum caskets or maimed or with mental problems. Their war was real. To them it was a just war. It was their duty. Right or wrong it was for their country. A Purple Heart is not near enough for their ultimate sacrifice.
Aristotle wrote: “We make war that we may have peace.” Really? We can certainly live in peace without a war. Brotherhood “Love the Neighbor” is not and must not be restricted to individuals. If we could create sense of togetherness amongst nations, without greed or envy, we could and would enjoy peace.
I may be asking or dreaming of an impossible Utopia. I may be fantasizing of a paradise on earth. Without the wars, I may not have had my twenty years of military service. True, but my family and I would have had a different life. No constant moving, no goodbyes, maybe higher income. No tears.
What would YOUR life be without war?