Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Veterans See

In August of 1945, Ralph Mariscal, Jr., a 23 year-old son of Mexican immigrants and a U.S. Marine, sat waiting off the coast of Japan with thousands of other troops. The invasion would be bloody, they had been told, but as it turned out history would take a different course. Rather than invading Japan, my father and U.S. forces landed at Sasebo among the first contingent of U.S. occupation forces. What he saw in nearby Nagasaki would stay with him forever.

Military veterans tend to view commonplace things through a different lens. Because they have seen the best and the worst of human behavior they have little patience for empty bravado and posturing. Today my father and his 80-something veteran pals refer to President Bush as “Little Napoleon.” The cowboy swagger with arms swinging wide at the hips signals “chicken hawk” to them. They always get a good laugh at the commander-in-chief’s expense.

When my colleague Gus Chavez, who taught for years at SDSU, is at the San Diego airport, he watches the young Marines just out of boot camp. Most of them will wind up in Iraq. What he really sees are the injured soldiers and Marines he treated as a Navy corpsman at the Balboa Hospital throughout the early years of the U.S. war in Southeast Asia.

When Vietnam vet Charley Trujillo listens to interviews with young GIs in Iraq, he hears the voices of his comrades in arms whose only objective was to get home alive. When he listened to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation speech in which he implied the war in Iraq was simply too complex for the American public to understand, he heard the arrogant assertions of Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara, the architect of the U.S. adventure in Vietnam.

Most folks are amused when the Dodge Nitro commercial shows a car being blown a hundred feet into the air. But the veteran sees improvised explosive devices going off on Iraqi roads, their friends blown up before their eyes.

Most folks are shocked to hear a “special report” on CNN about how military recruiters distort the truth in order to meet their quotas. Veterans smile knowingly. They never met anyone in the service to whom a recruiter had not told a half-truth or an outright lie.

Most folks parrot the slogan “Support our troops.” They put yellow ribbon and American flag stickers on their cars. Veterans wonder how supporting our troops can mean sending them to fight in a war with no clearly defined mission and no clearly defined exit strategy in a country that never posed a threat to the United States.

What is most striking to all veterans when they return from the combat zone is the way in which daily life appears to go on as if nothing was different. Football, malls, movies-does anyone realize that young men and women in uniform are surrounded by death and dying in a killing field faraway? Civilians see the headlines about Britney Spears’ divorce, but veterans see a country living in a bubble.

JORGE MARISCAL is a Vietnam veteran and director of the Chicano-Latino Arts and Humanities Program at the University of California, San Diego. He is a member of Project YANO (San Diego). Visit his blog at: jorgemariscal.blogspot.com/ He can be reached at: gmariscal@ucsd.edu

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail