Monday, May 29, 2006

Never Forget

Today, on Memorial Day, I'd like to tell you about my Uncle, James McAfee.

Born the youngest of four children, and born many years after my Aunt Jeanine (can you say "Whoops"?!) he was called up to serve in Vietnam.

Now, I know very little about what happened to him over there, but I do know that my Mom, my Uncle David, and my Aunt all said repeatedly that before he went over there, he was a happy, well-adjusted person. And they said that he came back forever changed.

I admit I didn't know him very well. He cut himself off from us, moving himself and his family to Colorado. He visited rarely. He was often short-tempered--although he did his best to control it when us kids were around, we all saw the signs.

He was a good man, though. He loved his family, and was a good father to his children, judging by the fact that they all turned out pretty well. I would guess that he was one of the lucky ones.

But I still lump him as one of the thousands who died in Vietnam but didn't stop moving until years, or even, decades, later.

War, any war, has a profound effect on those who fight in it, even if they are one of the lucky few to emerge from it unhurt. The rapidly dwindling number of veterans who fought in World War II can console themselves with the fact that while they endured a hell that no human being should be forced to endure, they were fighting to destroy a great evil, one that would surely have enslaved the world had it been victorious. The veterans of Vietnam, and, now, of Iraq, have no such consolation.

And that may be the overriding reason why so many of them came home as completely different people.

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