Recently the Record-Herald had the honor of sitting down with 17 members of the Fayette County Veteran Honor Guard. The goal was to have a roundtable discussion. The question was why 100 years after the end of the “War To End All Wars” are we still fighting?
This was not a discussion of right or wrong. Nothing said at the table on that day would make any difference to the world condition. The heroes at the table on that day served our country from Korea through Vietnam, all branches of the military were present, and all present have great respect for this country and for their fellow veterans.
On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and thus entered World War I. We were involved for about a year. This war helped launch the modern day United States Air Force. There was a mobilization of the country’s entire population and its economy. The country needed to produce the soldiers, the food, the ammo and the money necessary to win the war. And, actually there had been very little planning or preparation before we joined in.
In 1917 and 1918, during the height of registration and induction into the military services, few men showed little of the resistance that had characterized the Civil War. These soldiers were not cynical or disillusioned. They “fought for honor, manhood, comrades and adventure, but especially for duty,” according to their discharge questionnaires.
From the United States, 4,355,000 soldiers were deployed; 126,000 were killed; 264,000 were wounded all at a cost of $22,645,254,000.
So the question: Why are we still fighting?
James Thayer jumped right in asking, “Do we belong in every conflict across the world?” This writer counted 113 wars, conflicts, incursions, etc. the United States has been involved in. John Mason responded with, “We have bailed out so many countries, we need to protect our country.” Paul Sands pointed out that during the Korean conflict, the “fighting was taken out of the hands of the military and put into the hands of politicians.”
David Frederick mentioned that we fight to preserve our way of life in the United States. Several of the veterans pointed out that the government puts “us in harm’s way” and then “won’t allow the soldiers to get the job done.”
Bill Footy remembers that “if you were on the front line and encountered fire, you needed to call in for permission to return fire.” Many heads were shaking yes in remembrance and several pointed out this happened even under the last administration’s terms.
There was a lengthy discussion revolving around a draft, volunteers, or mandatory years of service. Several countries were pointed out as having mandatory military service: Israel and Korea. There was discussion about everyone serving – able-bodied was off the table. “Even folks in wheelchairs could do something to support this country.” When there is pride in what you are doing it makes for a stronger country.
There was also a revolving discussion regarding the news media during war time. A handful of those present commented that during their deployment in Vietnam, Iraq and Desert Storm, the news media knew what was happening with the fighting before they did “and we were in the country!”
This writer pointed out that a democratic country needs a news media to keep everyone on their toes. That discussion ended with, “Yes, the media wants/needs to know, but work with us not against us.”
Ed Fisher noted that “there has always been war since the beginning of time and there probably always will be.” Paul Sands finished the discussion by pointing out, “There will always be a bully looking to be on the top of the heap.”
Again, we did not set out to change the world, to move politicians, to create havoc. We sat down and had an honest discussion about our world. There was passion, there was sadness, there was resolution and hope. No one got angry, no one got hurt, and we all know each other a little bit better.
Maybe we started our own path to peace.