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El Weekender

No 92

Some came home in a coffin draped with a flag;
While others wrapped their body with a flag

When you serve in the military long enough you walk away with so many experiences worthy of a PhD in leadership, management and human relations. For example, John Kelley, Trump’s Chief of Staff and I have something in common. At one time or another we served for a totally incompetent person.

I am a Vietnam Veteran. Funny thing about being a veteran is that when you tell someone you are a Vietnam Veteran people think of combat, guns, bullets, blood, helicopters. In reality, combat forces made up a small percentage of the military force. The vast majority are in some type of support function.

The Army relied heavily on the draft to fill its man power needs. Every high school graduate knew that within a few days after graduation they would be getting a letter from their local draft board telling them to report for a physical and induction. There were some high school graduates that were very gung ho and joined the Army or Marine Corps to go to Vietnam. These were the true patriots. Some may have served for the fun and excitement, but it was not a large group.

High school graduates often looked at volunteering to join the military to forego the draft. Favorite service to avoid the draft was the Air Force, then the Navy or Army as a last resort. The Army was a gamble. If you get drafted you got the job the Army gave you. If you volunteered, you were given a chance to select your job depending on your test scores.

For those that could not weasel their way out of the draft, there was always getting a deferment by going to college. Those that could not afford to go to college could join the Air National Guard, the Army National Guard or Coast Guard. There was also the Air Force Reserve or Army Reserve. Then there was the other option, put your tail between your legs and high tail it to Canada, Sweden or even Mexico. Thousands did. Eventually these protestors (technically they were draft dodgers) were repatriated. What is sad is that many died in their place. For every American that enrolled in a four-year college to avoid the draft four draftees had to take their place. Someone had to take the place of every person that avoided the draft for whatever reason. The replacements were:1. Poor Whites,2. Latinos,3. African Americans. Probably there were more men that got away from serving in Vietnam than served.

Those that joined the Army were called RA (Regular Army), those that got drafted were called AUS (Army of the United States). Not everybody that got drafted wrapped the flag around their body. Many were bitter they were drafted. Draftees were sometime difficult to lead because of their bitterness. These draftees would condemn America’s participation in the war. In some places, it was not safe for a sergeant to walk at night by himself for fear of being attacked by his own soldiers. This would be true when the soldiers were having pot/drug parties. We don’t know how many leaders were fragged (Killed by their own men). Not all things were peachy dory in Vietnam. And in true Army fashion, no one wanted to hear whatever problems you had. The tour was one year and you could sleep through it. I can recall more than once saying and hearing someone say, “You volunteered, so don’t complain.” Top hear the Commander in Chief say that to the mother of a fallen soldier is disgusting. Respect for fallen military is so great that in Spain at El Escorial is a huge cross dedicated to the war dead. It is called El Valle Delos Caidos, Valley of the Fallen. How can a whole nation show its respect for the fallen, yet our own Commander in Chief disrespects them? Disgusting. This is the same president that now questions loyalty to this country reportedly once said “My Vietnam was Studio 54.” The jungle of New York was much more preferable than the jungle of Vietnam.

I was listening to the news one day when I heard the protests that were being held in the states against the Vietnam War. I remember saying some derogatory words. See if you are in the volunteer army you are a patriot a true nationalist.

An elderly sergeant looked at me straight in the face and scolded me, “You are here so, they can do that!”. Up until that time, I thought it was every American’s duty to support me and the troops in Vietnam. How wrong I was!!!! Many refuse to believe that dissention is a part of the democratic process. If you get rid of dissention you get rid of democracy.

There are some that wrap themselves with the ag pretending to be patriots. Donald Trump supposedly had five deferments from the draft. I know how it feels like when you are noticed that you are going to war. I know how it feels like to grab a machinegun and go out to where there may be combat. I know how it feels like to pray that your brothers don’t get hurt. But I have always wondered how my mother felt like when she had four sons go off to war. Perhaps she was the role model that we needed to survive. This uneducated woman proved to be the leader that the family needed.

Somehow the lure, lore and luster of Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan has been lost on the Republican Party. They were not twitters, they were leaders. There is somebody out there that can save the Republican Party. It is easier to rebuild the Republican Party and revive the Democratic Party.

Felix Alvarado



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