War and Remembrance

I received a very thoughtful response from Ben Coker, Jr. of South Carolina to my Veterans Day post. He and I are having a dialogue about war and peace and our obligations as Americans.  We have never met and I sense we are on two sides of the political spectrum but we are sharing our opinions and trying to understand where the other is coming from.  In the meantime I am getting quite a history lesson.  I’ll be sharing our conversation with you.  Read on:

Good morning Ms. Collins,

I read with great interest you column on your inability to endure your son’s telling you that he would like to join the military. In that column you expressed your gratitude for those who have and are currently serving their country. Your point is well taken, but let me offer the following thoughts. It is only natural for a mother to protect her children; however please allow me to offer the following.

I was born in 1948 and grew up in a very rural area in South Carolina. I had two uncles on my dad’s side that fought in “The Battle of The Bulge” in Germany during WWII. I had other relatives that were deployed to other parts of the world in order to maintain freedom for our beloved America. As I was growing up, I vividly remember the horror stories on TV of the atrocities on sea, land and in the air. One of my uncles was never ever able to re-adjust to life after the war. He had a family with five children, but he was an alcoholic. My other uncle acclimatized well to life after the war.

However, having been born in 1948 I can remember an abundance of patriotism for WWII. There were many movies depicting battles of WWII. We children were drilled on the importance of our military and the need to support the military. I was always very interested in “Operation Overlord” or better known “D Day”. I educated myself on the events that motivated Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor and our subsequent “Declaration of War” on Germany and the other countries allied with Germany.

Other underlying facts involved the genocide initiated by Germany and the the theft of the people throughout Europe who did not adhere to Nazism. Our nation endured much pain and suffering in order to defeat Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. Of course there were many more who rose to power whom we eventually defeated, but the fact remains, the USA paid an enormous cost. from this war rose some of the most courageous leaders ever known. In fact Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the forefathers who endured that period of time. The name of his book was “The Greatest Generation”.

Then there was the Korean War which was permeated with politics and ended in a negotiated settlement. Nevertheless, this war claimed many lives and cost the Americans very much. Then of course came the big conflict when France withdrew from South Vietnam as peace keepers and President Kennedy sent observers to this region. After he was assassinated, President Johnson, under the advice of the military leaders, escalated the war by sending more than 500,000 men to the region but encumbered the military with the politics. It was at this time the young people of my age rebelled against the war. I was not a part of that action because my parents were very conservative, very patriotic and would not tolerate such behavior. There was an upheaval of violence that included the civil rights movement. I truly believe the sixties represented a low point in American history when there was so much disrespect for our military. They were sent to fight a war, but politics prevented them from engaging the enemy as our military had confronted Hitler’s forces.

Of course eventually the US capitulated by signing an agreement that enabled Ho Chi Minh of North Vietnam to overwhelm South Vietnam. North Vietnam then invade the south resulting in the destruction of South Vietnam as a free society. Millions of people were butchered in the name of Ho Chi Minh’s effort to thrust communism upon the people of the south.

Having grown up through this troubled period, I have witnessed a degeneration spiral of ethics and morals in this nation as well as the world. This degeneration is emblematic of a larger problem lurking among us inhabitants of the world. These include hate, distrust, greed and disrespect for one another. We, as Americans, would simply like to live in peace and tranquility and to rear our children in an environment conducive to their enrichment of health and values. Consequently, we are only a few among many millions who inhabit this planet. While it is our desire to be “Left Alone” and “To Live in Peace”, this will never happen.

While I consider myself well read and well educated business owner, competition is the driving force behind survival. Competition will cause many to lose focus of family as well as fellow man. This happens when greed enters his thoughts. Greed breeds corruption as he engages sinister thoughts to prey financially upon the weaker people of the world. Then there are those who hate our ability to enjoy life and freedom and they will seek to take these liberties from us by any and all means available to them.

Having witnessed the many terrifying events in my lifetime, I can not escape the reality of D-Day and the tremendous price that we, as Americans, have paid for freedom. We have liberated France twice from the jaws of being overthrown. We have fought in every sector of the world to free the enslaved. We have given so much to so many without an expression of gratitude from them. D-Day represented the most massive assimilation of men and war machines ever known to man. We had no assurance of our effort, but we were not willing to roll over and surrender without a fight.

Having heard the stories of D-Day as a young lad, I always had a desire to visit Normandy so I could walk on the beaches that were the doorway of our entry into France and Germany. I wanted to visit the Amercan Cemetery so I could see first hand the graves of the brave soldiers who gave their lives for my (our) freedom. I wanted to touch the soil and to feel the gentle breeze on my face as I tread the paths upon which our courageous fathers, uncles, aunts, brothers etc. had also walked.

My son, Mack R. Coker, graduated from The Citadel in 1999 and joined the Air Force immediately. He is a Major stationed at RAF Lakenheath, England but is currently deployed to Afghanistan. However, he was stationed at Rhine Mein Air Base and while he was there, he asked me and his mother (Polly) to visit him. I told him I would visit under one condition. That was I could visit Normandy. He arranged the trip to Normandy so I agreed to go and visit him. We had a wonderful trip, but being able to visit the footprints of such courageous people was very humbling. I visited all five battle beaches and the old bunkers. I saw the gun turrets and St. Mary Eglise Church where two paratroopers hung from the steeple. However, when I walked into the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach and saw the 10,700 marble crosses, I was overcome with my emotions as the tears welled up in my eyes. I could no longer contain my emotion and let the tears spill onto my face.

As I toured the museums, cemeteries, battle grounds etc. I saw a sign which has has been indelibly burned into my memory. That message was “All gave some/Some gave all”. The point is that if we, as a free society, are to survive the turmoils that seek to disenfranchise our liberties, then we ALL must participate in the fight to thwart our disenfranchisement.

Sir Winston Churchill once said “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last”. Patrick Henry gave a speech at the Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775 in which he said “Give me liberty or give me death”. Nathan Hale said ” I only regret I have one life to give for my country”. Finally Thomas Jefferson said, “Every citizen must be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans and must be that of every free state”.

I understand your love for your son. All mothers seek to protect their children from harm. I admire your position. Consequently, all of us parents love our sons and daughters and wish no harm to befall them. I would prefer to sacrifice my life instead of my son, but we all must be vigilant of the need to defend our freedom. So many young people have given “ALL” so we can continue to celebrate freedom, but the day we become so complacent that we are not willing to fight back, we will become enslaved to another society whose ambitions were greater than ours.

I did not write this to castigate you. There is no doubt in my mind you are a loving mother and sensitive person, but the obligation to protect our freedom is the responsibility of each and every person who call himself an “AMERICAN”.

May God Bless you,
Ben Coker Jr.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.

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