My father was wounded twice in Vietnam. As a young man I asked him to tell me some stories, which he reluctantly did when he felt I was mature enough to handle them.
The Horrors of War
First, he told me about watching his good friend being blown apart with an RPG right in front of his eyes. To this day, I regret asking him to relive that trauma by sharing it with me.
The Stupidity of War
His second story was much less gruesome, but convinced me I could never be a soldier. He was in a tank spotlighting an enemy position for our supposed South Vietnamese allies. A South Vietnamese soldier shot the spotlight on his tank. Perhaps his training in the Marine Corps gave him the discipline not to kill the soldier, but I know I would've retaliated against anyone that shot at me no matter what uniform they were wearing, especially if I had a tank at my disposal.
The Trauma of War
The final story I wish to share with you was after my father returned home. Being raised in Texas guns are simply a part of the culture. Most fathers anxiously await their sons being old enough to take to the gun range or on a hunting trip. Unfortunately, my father never did. It was always my maternal grandfather that took me hunting or shooting before I was old enough to go by myself. My father never discouraged my firearm education, but he never participated in it himself. One day I asked my father why he didn't ever go hunting with us. He told me he tried to go deer hunting after the war, but the first time he heard the report from a fellow hunter's rifle out in the wilderness he instinctively hit the deck.
The Shame of War
As far as I know, my father was not ashamed of his service to this country, nor should he have been. The shame should be felt by the evil men who wage war from behind a desk, knowing full well they are sending brave young men to die, lose limbs, or be forever traumatized to accomplish something they would never be brave enough to accomplish themselves.
The Costs of War
Wars cost lives, mental health, and so much more. They take a bigger toll than most realize at first glance. They take away things that seem trivial until you are deprived of them, like being able to bond with your son on a hunting trip. Sometimes war is inevitable, and I am more than willing to participate in it to repel an invasion of my homeland. However, I will never participate in a war where politicians decide to send soldiers in harm's way just so they can meddle in the affairs of a foreign nation. I can only hope that one day the world will join me in understanding the costs of war are too great to engage in them for any reason other than self defense.