With Veterans’ Day being last week, perhaps this column is a week late.
However, I really wasn’t thinking about the subject until a Nov. 13th Rotary Club meeting when president Roy Ward had all veterans come down front to be recognized.
That brief walk was enough to bring back memories of my military service so many years ago.
I am an involuntary veteran in that I never volunteered to serve. I was drafted into military service in 1970, at a time when we were clearly losing the war in Vietnam,
both at home and on the battlefield.
President Richard Nixon had been elected partly on the strength of his pledge to “Vietnamize” the war by turning it over to the Vietnamese people to fight and getting
American troops out of the fray.
I had completed my master’s degree and was ready to take my place in the workforce and start partaking of the fruits of my labor. Trudging around in a foreign jungle
shooting at and being shot at by people I didn’t even know was not part of my plan.
To say that being drafted into the Army displeased me is an understatement.
But, into the Army I went. One day — a scholar in Hattiesburg; the next — a green recruit at Fort Polk, La.
Shifting gears to become a soldier was not easy for me. I have a tendency to be hardheaded and stubborn and the Army is no place for someone like that. However, after
what seemed like weeks without sleep and being constantly yelled at, one adjusts.
Encouraged to the point of harassment to change my draftee status and extend my Army time commitment in exchange for a cushy office job, I steadfastly refused. In
fact, I told one of the officers that I wouldn’t serve an extra day if they made me commanding general of the entire U.S. Army. However, I suppose luck was with me; I
ended up with one of those cushy office jobs anyway.
Following boot camp at Fort Polk and clerical school at Fort Dix, N.J., and more clerical training at Fort Hamilton, N.Y., I was assigned permanent duty in Washington,
D.C. At my desk at Fort McNair, I gallantly fought the war from behind a typewriter. Were it possible to win the war by inundating the enemy with paperwork, the
communists would not have stood a chance.
On a sober note, some of the paperwork we processed were NOKs. That’s Army lingo for “next of kin notifications.” Should you ever wish to experience the full horrors
of war beyond the battlefield just imagine yourself participating in the process of telling wives or mothers that Johnny is not coming home. Though people adjust to loss of
loved ones, that family’s life is never the same after the notification is delivered.
I offer you all this trivial detail to say that I doubt I was unlike many, if not most, American fighting men. I didn’t want to go, but once I got there, I tried to serve my
country as best I could. With a comfortable distance of 30 years between military service and me, I realize how proud I am that I did my part when my country called.
I will end this column with a word of caution, and I hope, wisdom for our leaders. We lost the war in Korea and Vietnam because of the unwillingness of our politicians to
let the military do its job. It was unfair to send our troops into harm’s way with one arm tied behind their back. Warriors need victories just as a sports team needs wins.
There is no doubt that our armed forces could have not only won the war in Vietnam, but obliterated the country off the face of the earth if allowed to do what armies do
Unless we are willing to pursue war to a victorious conclusion, regardless of the political cost and collateral damage to civilian populations, we should leave the troops at
home. We owe that to the men and women who place their lives in jeopardy to further American objectives around the globe.
THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT
Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles that one has overcome while trying to succeed.
— educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is email@example.com.