Any of you who watched the Memorial Day Concert from the National Mall last night on PBS saw the duo Big & Rich sing their new song, “The 8th of November” a heart-rending story of one Niles Harris. Harris befriended the musicians a few year ago and told them the story of his unit — 30 men of the 173rd Airborne — being ambushed by 1200 Vietcong on November 8, 1965. Harris, from Deadwood, South Dakota, has a story similar to so many vets, but Vietnam Vets hold a special place in history. They were the only vets in modern times who were met on their arrival back home not with adulation but with revulsion and ridicule by far too many. It was a disgrace, and one that time has not erased.
Butler, NJ was one of those mill towns that supplied manpower to the Vietnam war. As their draft numbers were called, they dutifully reported to the draft board and became part of the war effort. Some made their way to Southeast Asia. Not all returned. But Butler, like so many towns, was not a place where you’d find an anti-war rally. You were more likely to find flags flying outside the homes and — if asked — support for the boys who were there, just doing their duty. They all had “8th of November” moments and, as in Niles Harris’ case, some weren’t known until many years later, after they felt comfortable speaking about it in public, unafraid of a public backlash.
As a new war rages in Iraq, young men and women are taking up the cause once again, doing their duty. Once again anti-war ire is prevalent. Let’s hope we never again confuse the soldiers with the war and besmirch the men and women who are doing their duty with the mud being kicked up by those who are busy second-guessing and scoring political points.
This Memorial Day we remember the fallen as we do every year, the men and women who gave their lives in defense of liberty and freedom, men and women who understood that a threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. Here’s a link to our Memorial Day post from last year, with a bit of Memorial Day history.
We would also remind you of National Moment of Remembrance, a moment of silence to be observed at 3 p.m. (local time) today. We hope you will take this moment to pause and reflect on the sacrifice of those who gave all.
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