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Thank You for Your Service


It was another Veterans Day without me wearing the display cap with my old chevrons and campaign ribbons. I put that cap together in the mid-1980s to help me deal with survivors guilt. I had spent 16 months in Southeast Asia, but I was at U-Tapao in Thailand, not a base in Vietnam.

U-Tapao was a major B-52 base where we only got attacked twice in those 16 months. I worked hard, but I partied even harder. I was the proverbial little guy who drank the big guys under the table, and I had some of the best weed in the world. In Nam, 58,000 of my peers were sent home in body bags.

For a while I wore that cap daily, then only on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. Now I wear it very rarely, if at all. To me, all three days now, at least represent lives, liberty, and innocence lost.

My not wearing the cap is not about guilt or shame at being part of that war or what I did. Rather its a matter of disgust with the fact that the nation as a whole has learned nothing, that society thinks thanking someone for his or her military service somehow makes up for the fact that military personnel are still nothing more than political pawns in a nasty game of global king of the hill, where all types of people the warrior and the innocent alike get killed and maimed.

The good news is that todays returning vets are treated better than those of my generation. Yet, the political correctness behind the flag-waving thank you for your service gets to my gut. And I hate the way the word hero is bandied about.

Todays soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are serving empire, and they havent a clue. They believe they are doing the right thing protecting the United States and its citizens. Whos to tell them otherwise?

The hard-core right wing who allowed 58,000 to die in Vietnam are now joined by the doves of the Left who are silent at best when it comes to todays wars of aggression. Cutting troop strength in Iraq now is just a ploy for President Obama to get reelected.

There is no peace movement today as there was during Nam. The Left and the Right are now equally at home sending American kids into harms way in wars that have no legal validity, no congressional declaration and that sometimes start without Congress even being consulted about the planned action, such as in Libya.

The imperial attitude goes beyond military intervention, with hundreds of bases in more than 100 different countries. Todays attitude of government ber alles extends to everything in our daily lives.

Our currency has been ravaged. The dollar has lost roughly 95 percent of its value since Congress abdicated its responsibility in 1913 and established the Federal Reserve and the income tax. The Fed and the IRS, people were told, would stave off inflation, relegate the boom-and-bust cycle to history, and get the federal government out of debt. Yet todays debt is approaching $15 trillion and shows no signs of being reduced.

Tens of thousands of pages of new regulation each year clamp down on innovation and invention, yet the presidents defenders blame free enterprise for all of our economic ills. U.S. statists blame the wealthy.

The warfare mindset is used here at home, where militarized police forces in paramilitary fashion raid homes and routinely kill the family dog because someone might have marijuana. Worse, they also kill people in those abhorrent raids, all because the government wants to control what people ingest.

I no longer want to display my past service, because the statist mentality has stolen patriotism and replaced it with nationalism: Loving your country isnt enough. You must obey the government, especially when its wrong and acting illegally. Wave the flag, but dont criticize a politician for failing to uphold the Constitution. And dont you dare exercise your constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Google the name Nancy Genovese, and youll read the story of a woman who stopped her car and, from a public street, took a photograph of a helicopter display at a local airport; she was arrested for doing so. According to the court documents filed in her case, the police said they wanted to teach a lesson to a tea bagger.

People who want to run for public office are kept off the ballot because they disagree with Republicans and Democrats. Some Democrats dont even want Libertarians on the ballot challenging Republicans. The rationale behind this is that Ralph Naders presence on the 2000 ballot in Florida cost Al Gore the presidency. There must be no challenge to either side of the Big Government Party.

The primacy of the two incumbent parties is all-important to the statist mind. Its party over principle for them (easy enough, since neither has any principles). What they are after is votes and power. Once they figure out a way to get the latter without the former, they will no longer even pretend to care about the people.

And they surely wont thank us for our service.

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    Rich Schwartzman is managing editor at Chadds Ford Live in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.