I recall TV reports of fellow soldiers arriving at an airport, survivors of
the Vietnam gauntlet, relieved at their 1st step on home ground. Their
grins morphed to astonishment as protesters threw packets of animal blood at them, shouting "Baby-Killers!" Welcome home.
Joseph Galloway, senior writer for US News & World Report, would differ with the protestors. Unlike more sensible journalists reporting on the war from relative comfort and safety, Joe preferred working close up, hot, tired, hungry, scared, dirty and bloodied along with the men he wrote about.
Joe conned his way into hot spots like the 1965 battle of the Ia Drang
Valley, aka The Valley of Death, where 450 of our men were surrounded by
2,000 well-armed NVA enemy. Over 4 days 234 young Americans died as each
side chopped the other to pieces. In that battle Joe set camera aside to
charge with a Medic through enemy fire in a desperate attempt to help an
injured soldier. The Medic was killed, the soldier later died, and Joe
Galloway was awarded the Bronze Star with V (valor), the 1st civilian ever
to be decorated for valor in combat by the US Army.
Consider some of his remarks at the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association
banquet in Washington DC, July 2000.
"What I want to say now is just between us, because America still doesn't
get it, still doesn't know the truth, and the truth is - you are the cream
of the crop of our generation, the best and finest of an entire generation
You are the ones who answered when you were called to serve. You are the
ones who fought bravely and endured a terrible war in a terrible place. You are the ones for whom the words duty, honor, country have real meaning
because you have lived those words and the meaning behind those words. You
are my brothers in arms, and I am not ashamed to say that I love you. I
would not trade one of you for a whole trainload of instant Canadians, or a
whole boatload of Rhodes Scholars bound for England, or a whole campus full
of guys who turned up for their draft physicals wearing panty hose."
"On behalf of a country that too easily forgets the true cost of war, and
who pays that price, I say thank you for your service. On behalf of the
people of our country who didn't have good sense enough to separate the war
they hated from the young warriors they sent to fight that war, I say we are sorry. We owe you all a very large apology, and a debt of gratitude that we can never adequately repay."
Joe talked about his friend Mike Norman, a Marine who searched out the
survivors of his platoon and wrote a fine book, These Good Men. Mike
explained why we veterans sometimes gather.
"I now know why men who have been to war yearn to reunite. Not to tell
stories or look at old pictures. Not to laugh or weep. Comrades gather
because they long to be with the men who once acted their best, men who
suffered and sacrificed, who were stripped raw, right down to their
"I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate and the military.
But I know them in a way I know no other men. I have never given anyone
such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my
"They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me. It was part of
the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one
"I am sure that when I leave this world my last thought will be of my family and my comrades, such good men."
In closing Joe said "I salute you. I remember you. I will teach my sons
the stories and legends about you..."
The media forgets that Washington botched the war, but continually portray
veterans as fragile, crazed or trigger-happy. Its about time America
learned what Joe Galloway knows, that we are normal, patriotic citizens,
proud of having served with honor and courage.
Here's to the memory of every one of our brothers who paid the ultimate
price - for his country, for those who sent him to that miserable war while they enjoyed the comforts of home, for those who dodged, even for those who insulted our service.
We remember each one, such good men.