On the Eve Of War
Dedicated to all who suffered and died in the Viet Nam War
I am a Viet Nam Veteran, Purple Heart recipient, who was wounded in combat in 1969 and I spent five months in a hospital in Japan. I was without eyesight for over sixty days and my senses of smell and hearing were very acute to the foul odors and noises of death rattles all around me. But, I was not prepared for what I would see once the bandages were removed.
Published on LatinoLA: March 17, 2003
I witnessed first hand the remnants of war: Young men without legs, arms, faces, and other body parts; young men with holes in their young bodies the size of baseballs and in some cases, the size of a basketball; young men with emotional scars and nightmares that no amount of time would heal; young men who suffered beyond anyone's imagination; and young men who died daily.
I have lived with those smells, the sounds, the voices, the dreams, the cries and the deaths of all those brave young men for over thirty years.
I am not a war hero by any stretch; in fact, I spent more time in the hospital than I spent on the battlefield. Nor do I share this with you looking for any sense of pity. I learned early on at that hospital in Japan that I had no right to feel sorry for myself.
But, like many veterans of that era, I haven't spoken much about my experiences.
For some of us, its too painful and for others, in many cases, no one asked us or cared about our experiences. In addition, some of us carry the guilt as to the role we played in the senseless and brutal killing of more than two million Vietnamese and the mass destruction of the countries infrastructure and environment.
In the end, we didn't get a ticket parade and in most cases, other than family and friends, we didn't even get a "Welcome home!" We participated in the "bad" war that was ultimately lost and one that splintered the nation.
This pending war will not only fracture our nation, but it could split the world in a manner that will alter human history beyond our worst nightmares. I call on all the men and women who served in Viet Nam and other wars or conflicts, to share their stories that we may learn from each other the true price of war.
Before you accuse me or write me off as a liberal pacifist, I sadly cannot proclaim myself to be one. For I don't believe that any human being was put on this earth to be exploited, oppressed, violated or killed in the process. Everyone has the right and obligation to act against their aggressor and to stop the violence against themselves, their children and their people. That isn't being violent in return, when you remove your oppressor; it means bring justice for yourself and others.
But to act on the prediction or forecast of possible aggression with a preemptive strikes, is both misguided and morally wrong!
On the eve of this war, we need everyone to discuss, debate and take a position on this issue. Silence and apathy can be more dangerous then yells of protest or support!
Do I support the troops? Absolutely!
Bring them home, now!
Not in body bags, not without limbs or lungs, not without eyesight, and not with the scars of war that never heal. Bring them home safely to their families and honor their courage and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for us.
War is ultimately, the most insane, vile and hideous side of human behavior! I add my voice to the millions who say, "No war, nowhere!"
David Valladolid, 199th Light Infantry Brigade. He is Chair, Board of Directors, Chicano Federation, Inc., Vice Chair of Operation Samahan Clinics and on the National Executive Board of the United Domestic Workers of America, San Diego, California.