Today is Memorial Day in the US. For readers of this blog who are from other countries, Memorial Day is one of the most important holidays in the US and celebrated to honor all those in the US Armed Forces who died while in service to their country.
One of those I know who served in the US Army is my friend Ralph. During the Vietnam war, Ralph was a medic in the US army and survived two tours in Vietnam. After being at the forefront of war, Ralph went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley where he avidly protested the Vietnam war in between pursuing his Bachelor of Science Degree in Microbiology.
I cannot imagine how it feels being in the middle of a barrage of machine gun fire. I cannot imagine how it is not to know whether I will still be breathing by the end of a day of fighting. I cannot imagine being a first-hand witness to the horrors of war.
But I can imagine easily that anybody who goes to the battlefield and returns home alive is never unscathed, be it physically or emotionally. Not all wounds are visible just as not all wounds heal.
Some emerge from war forever damaged -- bitter, cynical, traumatized. Those fortunate, after having had first hand experience with carnage, come out of war with a great deal of wisdom and a compassion for others and a respect for life deeper than what they had before they left to fight.
Today on Memorial Day, I thank Ralph and others like him who laid their lives on the line and made unimaginable sacrifices fighting for our ideals of inalienable human rights, freedom and democracy.
|Ralph in army uniform, 1967|
|At Phan Thiet, Southeastern Vietnam, 1968|
While a student at University of California, Berkeley in 1972 and protesting the Vietnam war
- By ARIEL MURPHY