Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Dear Jane

Jane, it has been thirty-three years since you shocked us with your visit to North Vietnam.

By this time, those of us in the military were accustomed to Americans voicing their opinions on the Vietnam War. That’s why we’re a great country. We can argue and have major disagreements, yet live next door to each other.

However, for some reason that was a mystery to us at the time, you chose to visit the capital of the nation we were at war with, taking their side on everything, and besmirching the character and patriotism of the American fighting man. Did it bother us that Jane Fonda, daughter of Henry Fonda, a movie star in your own right, and the darling of the media, would side with the enemy? Yes, it did, but only because it didn’t make sense.

We all understand the 60s were a turbulent time in our country. Fine. We dealt with it. I was living in Alameda in the late 1960s. I could be in Berkeley in ten minutes, and Haight-Ashbury in fifteen. I drove to these places to personally witness the hippies in the counter-culture movement and the anti-American propaganda. As I walked around these now historic areas, I remember thinking that as Americans we have the right to protest peacefully.

In 1969 I enlisted in the Marine Corps to fight against an enemy of our nation that I believed was harmful to democracy and all freedom-loving people. It was Communism we were fighting, and North Vietnam was Communist. They were planning to take over South Vietnam, with or without our intervention. The South Vietnamese asked that we not let this happen.

I signed my name on the dotted line at the Marine Corps Recruiting Office in Oakland. The day my parents dropped me off at the Induction Center, I was immediately confronted on the sidewalk by anti-war protesters who assumed I was being drafted. “Hey, man, you don’t have to go. We’ll get you a good lawyer!” one zealous protester assured me. Since he was blocking my path to the door, I simply said, “I volunteered. Move!” He looked stunned as he stared at me in disbelief, moving aside so I could pass.

Later, while I was attending Aviation Electronics School in Jacksonville, Florida, the movie, “Tribes,” came out. We heard this was a movie about a Marine recruit going through boot camp. Only this recruit was able to out-smart the Drill Instructors (DIs). This made us all laugh! So several of my Marine buddies and I decided to watch the movie. We laughed ourselves sick. We knew there was no way some Hindu guy wearing silk robes was going to join the Marine Corps and then convert the whole training platoon in the art of meditation, thus opposing the demands of the DIs. That is simply not ever going to happen. If you had been a Marine, you’d know what I was talking about. Since you never were, I wouldn’t expect you to appreciate the humor.

Let me put it like this: You bend to the will of the DI, or you break. But not the other way around.

It was in 1972 that I was in Da Nang, South Vietnam, fixing jet airplanes so we could bomb the enemy. You were then in Hanoi. I remember when word got around the base that you were “up north,” cavorting with the enemy. We looked at each other in surprise, never dreaming you would take such an open opposition to our military and our country. So when you spoke your treasonous drivel over Radio Hanoi, you immediately became known to us as “Hanoi Jane.”

Over the years we Vietnam veterans wondered if you would ever apologize to the military in particular, and the American people as a whole, for your actions. I don’t recall exactly when but I think it was around 2000, I read a column by Cal Thomas saying you had become a Christian. A real born-again Christian. I was, understandably, skeptical, yet pleased. But coming from a highly respected media person and professing Christian as Cal Thomas, I had to consider that just maybe it was true. I remember telling my wife that if this was a true conversion experience, you would eventually offer a sincere apology to the Vietnam veterans. The apology would have nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of the Vietnam War. Instead, it would have to do with your offensive attitude and traitorous behavior toward those who were willing to lay down their lives for you and every other American regardless of race, religion, or political beliefs.

But now I see in the news that you are back to the old, worn-out, anti-war motif. And you are planning a bus tour next spring. You have the right to do so. But do not impugn the courage, valor, and patriotism of today’s men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Like the veterans before them, they would willingly lay down their lives for you. They will perform their duties in truly exemplary fashion regardless of your protests against the President, the Commander in Chief. My nephew, a Marine, has just returned to Iraq for a second tour. As my oldest daughter said the other day, “I feel safer here knowing he’s there.”

There are a few of us Vietnam veterans who still wear the uniform. Some of us have even fought most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re proud to do so, and would do it again. There are so many prior service members that I know who would jump at the chance to go into harms way for our country that it would make your head spin.

Whether you ever apologize to the Vietnam vets won’t keep any of us awake at night. We hope you do, but we’re not holding our breath.

More disturbing yet is the fact that you seem to have abandoned the Christian faith you so fervently embraced five years ago. Instead, Cal Thomas writes that you now believe in universalism: that is to say, all religions lead to God. Jesus does not give us that option. He declared that he was the only way to God, period.

What your beliefs are about war, conservatives, Republicans, George W. Bush, or anything else is, in the long run, irrelevant. But what you believe about God, and his son, Jesus, is, in the long run, a matter of life and death.

Choose Jesus. Choose life!