This is my father in South Korea in 1968. He originally had received orders for Vietnam but two weeks before he was due to ship out, the North Koreans seized the SSUS Pueblo and his squadron was sent to Osan Air Force Base instead. He was gone for over a year.
The risks of serving in South Korea were admittedly less than that of Vietnam and, to be honest, we were relieved although his absence cut a huge hole in our lives. Still, there were dangers and lives lost there even though the Korean War was long over, since there was no sure way to identify which civilians were from the north and which were from the south. As a result, American soldiers were required to carry a gun at all times, especially when off base. That’s how civil wars are — people from both sides embattled in a war for the soul of their country. If Korea and Vietnam have taught us anything it’s that civil wars cannot be won by outsiders — but we have not yet mastered that lesson, hence 17 years in Afghanistan and involvement, publicly known or not, in other conflicts worldwide.
President Trump could learn a lot from our military history and the personnel themselves, but their sacrifices are beyond his comprehension and his capacity to empathize. While he pounds his chest and pokes the bear of North Korea, it is our soldiers who will have to pay the price should things escalate into war.
Trump is a narcissist – and an easily distracted one at that – and he has no sympathy for what combat does to G.I.s and their families. If he did, he would walk the grounds of Arlington or trace his finger in the names carved on the Vietnam Memorial, and wonder who the five men were who took his place when he received his deferments. But he doesn’t wonder; he doesn’t care.
Now, he wants to use our men and women in uniform for a fake parade like those seen in Russia’s Red Square or Kim Jong Un’s regime, spending $30+ million in the process – money that could be allocated for our veterans to treat, support, and help them heal from the lasting wounds of war.