Shakespeare is normally credited with coining the term, “Band of Brothers,” based upon his notable play, Henry V, and is found used in the famous St. Crispin’s Day Speech. In more recent times, Stephen Ambrose wrote a book by the same name, followed by a WWII TV miniseries “Band of Brothers” produced by Steven Spielberg.
Last night Isaura and I drove to San Francisco at the request of MajGen Mike Myatt, President and CEO of the Marines’ Memorial Club on Sutter Street. The event was “A Salute to Vietnam Veterans,” hosted by the Marines’ Memorial Club and the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). Dinner was served in the Commandant’s Room to, I would guess 250-300 people, roughly half being Vietnam War veterans. General Myatt knew I was a former enlisted Marine and Vietnam vet, so he had asked if I would provide the invocation at the beginning of the meal.
Adding to the festive atmosphere for the evening was a small musical combo. A number of folks got up and danced in the very limited spaces available between the tables. After the main course, and prior to dessert, war correspondent and author Joe Galloway, was our first speaker. He is perhaps best known as the co-author of “We Were Soldiers Once……and Young.” A movie was later made starring Mel Gibson as Colonel Hal Moore, commander of the Army battalion in our first major battle in November of 1965. Following a tasty dessert, we were then treated to a brief speech by General Anthony Zinni, a Marine’s Marine, as we say in the Corps. The best line of the night was in reference to the accomplishments of the Vietnam Veterans. General Zinni, a wet-behind-the-ears 2nd Lieutenant in Vietnam, said there are a lot of people running around pretending to be Vietnam Veterans (see the book, “Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History” by B.G. Burkett), but no one is running around pretending to have been at Woodstock!
The following are some of the statistics from this often misunderstood and maligned war.
To substantiate the truth that many people falsely claim to have served in Vietnam, consider this statistic: As of the Census taken during August of 2000, the surviving U.S. Vietnam Veteran population estimate was: 1,002,511. During this same Census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in Vietnam is: 13,853,027. Thus four out of five who claim to be Vietnam Vets are not. 58,260 were killed, and 304,000 were wounded out of 2.7 million service members that served in Vietnam. 240 men were awarded the Medal of Honor. 97% of Vietnam Veterans were honorably discharged. 91% say they are glad they served. 74% say they would serve again, even knowing the outcome. 85% of Vietnam Veterans made successful transitions to civilian life. 87% of Americans hold Vietnam Veterans in high esteem. Two-thirds of the men who served in Vietnam were volunteers. 70% of those killed were volunteers. 86% of the men who died were Caucasian, 12.5% were African-American, and 1.2% were of other races.
The rest of this article is the prayer I wrote for this Band of Brothers:
Tonight we gather to remember. We warriors from a past war remember when we fought in a distant land. Like our fathers before us who fought to rid the world of fascism, Nazism, and imperialism, we were called upon to battle against communism. Many of us stepped forward from a sense of patriotism: a love of God and country.
Those were hard times, Lord. Truth be told, more than a few of us preferred to take our chances in the rice fields and jungles of Vietnam rather than the internal upheaval that was taking place all across our beloved country. The anti-war movement; the social unrest; the campus rebellions; the racial discord; the violence in the inner cities; the Hippies and free-love; and the multiplicity of attempts to tear apart the fabric of our society caused many of us to wonder what in the world was going on back home.
But when it is all said and done, Father, I suspect every last one of us would do it again if we could. Why? Because you made us not only to fight, to be warriors, but you created in us the means to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you, our God.
There are some among us who yet have wounds that have not healed. I pray your anointing touch on them right now. For others, who carry the scars of war, a reminder daily of the burden that was shouldered lo, these many years ago, I pray you would provide peace in the soul. For the family members who lived with the uncertainty of their loved ones return, and who dreaded answering the door for fear that their worst nightmares might be realized, I pray for their comfort.
In closing this prayer, Father, I would simply ask that in the same way each of us served to the best of our abilities in Vietnam, we ask nothing more than on that final day when our time here on earth is over, we may say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” and in so doing we might hear you say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into thy rest.”
In Jesus’ Name!