You could not be drafted for the Viet Nam war until the age of 26 but I was drafted when I was 25 and 9 months.
Most of my fellow graduate students who were drafted did not serve. They went to Canada, had bone spurs or said they were “gay”. You would get out of the draft then if you were an acknowledged homosexual.
When I entered the U.S. Army as a Private E-2, the lowest of the low, I wasn’t very patriotic. But I thought I should serve because others did.
When I showed up for induction into the Army, I was asked if there was any reason I should not serve. I said no, but I said I didn’t want to kill anyone so please assign me some duty where I don’t have to shoot people. The Sergeant smiled and asked if I had played football. I said yes. “Don’t worry, if they shoot at you, you will shoot back.”
Ultimately, I was sent to Vietnam on a World War II Liberty ship out of Oakland, California. Twenty-one days later we landed in Yokohama, Japan. I was informed that I would not be continuing on the ship to Vietnam but flying to South Korea to be interviewed to work for the U.S. Army newspaper Stars & Stripes. Most of the friends I made on the ship died in Vietnam within a few months.
There were 26 of us being interviewed for the choice reporter’s job covering a four star U. S. Army general. General Dwight Beach was in charge of the entire Pacific Theater, including Vietnam. Somehow I was selected.
General Dwight Beach
I served for fifteen months in South Korea. Gradually during that time meeting all kinds of military personnel. I covered the U.S. Army but also the Air Force, Marines and Navy. I remember one time covering the Marines, a Lance Corporal yelled back at a Second Lieutenant. “Take off your bar (lieutenant’s bar) and say that to me.” The lieutenant removed his bar and the lance corporal knocked him to the ground. Then the lance corporal helped up the lieutenant and saluted him.
Watching all of these brave military men and women who loved our flag and one another gradually made me a patriot.
Most U.S. military who serve and who have served are offended when NFL players kneel as the U.S. flag is raised during the national anthem. Why? Because they know how much they sacrificed for the nation and they are keenly aware of those who gave the ultimately sacrifice for the country.
I know the NFL players say they are not trying to be disrespectful to those who serve or served in the military. They just want to promote their heart felt desire for equal justice for all people, but especially Black people.
I have a response to that.
I hink of a person of faith and how they must feel when someone uses the name of God in vain with a curse. If that doesn’t touch your sensibilities try this one on. Think of how you feel when someone is referred to with the derogatory word for Negro. Doesn’t that bother you? The vast majority of military people serving or served feel similarly when the flag and the national anthem are disrespected.
One final thought. One way for NFL players to make a statement about equal justice for all is to decide to only tackle white running backs. The problem with that is there are only a few. It also would be disrespectful to the team, both teams. We here in the United States are all part of the team.
Stanford Erickson lives in Vero Beach, FL and was a formerly a reporter for Hearst, bureau chief for McGraw- Hill in Washington, DC and editor in chief or Knight-Ridder in NYC. He is a regular contributor to Vero Communiqué. Mr. Erickson is a 40-year member of the National Press Club.
[Mr. Erickson’s comments are his own and do not reflect the position(s) of Vero Communiqué.]
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