Sunday, May 6, 2007

When Heroes Speak...Who Will Listen?

05/06/2007 LANGHORNE, Penn. May 4th was my fifty-ninth birthday this year. It was also the twenty-seventh anniversary of when the picture to the right was captured for all time as the symbol of the anti-Vietnam War movement. The tragedy of the Kent State Massacre in 1970 lives on in our collective memory of how things can really go wrong, and even more wrong after that.

History records that the demonstration that May 4th was specifically against the invasion of Cambodia that President Nixon had launched on April 25th. If that is the case then I know exactly where I was personally on the day of that invasion.

It was a Saturday, and for some reason I had the day off from my work as a machinist in a maintenance company stationed at Ankhe in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. I awoke that morning to the sound of moving vehicles, lots of moving vehicles. Our company was near the front gate of the base camp that had a twenty-two mile perimeter with Hong Kong Mountain in the middle. When I saw that the line of vehicles was not stopping, I got my camera and sat with a friend on the roof of the barracks.

It was the whole Fourth Infantry Division moving out to somewhere. Later I would find out that it had been Cambodia. There were gun trucks, armored personnel carriers (APCs), artillery pieces towed behind other vehicles, everything you can imagine when an Army division gets ordered into battle. Our company, thank God, was not part of the Fourth ID. So I stayed where I was that day. I didn't have to go. Later, they would come back, but Camp Radcliffe was pretty much like a ghost town without them.

It was September of that year that I finished my eighteen months, went back to the States, and got out of the military, not knowing that three years later, almost to the day, I would be in the military again, this time as a Military Policeman who stayed in as a career. It was sometime after that that I read about Kent State. The hairs on the back of my head raised up and a tingling sensation went down my back when I read that it had happened on my birthday while I was in Vietnam. Woodstock also happened while I was gone. That I knew about because I had accumulated quite a large record collection over there.

But this May 4th, in the year 2007, was different for me. When I went for my birthday breakfast at the local diner, the headlines of the Bucks County Courier Times read, "Bucks Marine's Casket Arrives At Willow Grove." There was the family picture, similar to the one on the right, with his brother-in-law, his sister, the mother, and the father in the full dress uniform of a Marine Reserve colonel. Willow Grove is the local Naval Air Station where he was brought in by military helicopter with full honors. Saturday he was laid to rest with more than 600 in attendance at the funeral.

First Lieutenant Travis Manion graduated from the La Salle College High School in 1999. He lettered in wrestling, football, and lacrosse. He had a 3.7 GPA and a commission to the Naval Academy. The Lieutenant graduated from Annapolis in 2004 and was a preseason national top 20 wrestler that year.

Lieutenant Manion, 26, was serving his second tour in Iraq. He was embedded with an Iraqi Army unit that he was leading and training. During a patrol mission on Sunday, April 29th in Anbar province, his unit came under sniper fire and the young Manion was shot and killed. Here are two things in particular that he wrote while over there, one to family and friends, and the second to a local newspaper.

"As far as the job is going, the area is not good right now - but it's getting better, and to be honest, I'm amazed at the ability and dedication of some of these Iraq Army soldiers. ...The AI's in this battalion are very eager to fight and to take control of this city. ...It was at times frustrating the first time I was here and it will and has been this time, but as in anything in life, true success does not come from battles won easily.

"There are many different views on our mission here. However, all I can say with certainty is that there are thousands of Americans over here working hard towards a positive outcome in Iraq. ...I am not sure the average American sees the positives these servicemen and women accomplish or even understand the sacrifices of their efforts. However, whatever course of action our leadership decides upon, there are those in waiting, ready to carry out the mission in support of our country and in defense of its people and their freedoms."

When heroes speak...who will listen? Who will act upon what they have heard and will rally to their cause in some form or fashion? There is much more involved in supporting our troops than putting on the uniform and joining them. For me, at my age for instance, first and foremost is prayer. Second is to make it a topic of discussion among family, friends and co-workers. Third, but certainly not last, is the ballot box. We all hate war, especially the soldiers and their families. We wish that we could come home and put war behind us. The problem is that our enemies will not allow us to do that. On top of that they have brought the war to American soil.

So I pray. I talk about the mission and the men and women in uniform that believe in that mission. They are the heroes. Then I write to you, my family, friends, and co-workers. And when it is time for the ballot box, I will be there too, an old soldier who still believes in the mission of freedom, no matter whether it is in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, or right here in my own backyard.

Rest in peace Lieutenant Manion. Semper Fi Sir! We who salute you have heard you loud and clear. We know the mission and we will not let you down.

Allan L. Winger
Staff Sergeant
U. S. Army Retired

(Links to the source stories for this blog as well as credit for the photographs utilized are in the Blog Spot Resource Center listed in the sidebar to the right.)

No comments: