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June 23, 2013

Shed no Tears …'Preparing for war, 1968'

In 1989 or 1990, two decades after I returned from Vietnam, I wrote this article with the intention of eventually writing a book about the horrors of the Vietnam War. With my late wife, Kay, providing input, I filed this short story away and forgot about it. She and I never shared this account with anyone, including our daughter. Recently, while cleaning out my files, I found the now faded typewritten copy. I showed it to our daughter, Sandy, and she believes that it is the best story out of the many I’ve written about that war.

I hope patriotic the readers of the Daily Iowegian, as they did in 1968, will understand the loneliness, despair and fear that any war brings to families.

The emotional anti-war fervor that swept America in 1968 and the endlessly brutal Vietnam War both had a profound effect upon everyone who remembers that year. Twenty years seems so very long, but the memories of that traumatic year are so vivid, unforgettable, and painful. From high schools, colleges, businesses, churches, homes, and even our nation’s Capitol, bitter and heated emotions over the war threatened the very foundation of our democracy. We were a bitterly fragmented society lacking both a national purpose and leadership. Amid the swirling turmoil, military personnel and their families became targets of the anti-war groups, patriotic symbols of those supporting the war and the victims of an enemy who rejoiced in America’s lack of will and unity.

In 1968, I was a Marine Corps first lieutenant, and, with my wife, Kay, and baby daughter, Sandy, lived in a lovely brick home near the large Marine base at Quantico, Vir., where I was assigned the duties of helping train officers for the war. As was the case with most American military couples in 1968, Kay and I enjoyed a peaceful existence and were thoroughly enjoying the early months of our young daughter’s life. Vietnam was many miles away, but the war was never far from our minds.

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