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What Does a Soldier Really Die For?
By Allen "Somerset" Meece
I wondered if anybody called Meece died in the Vietnam American War. I searched the list of surnames on the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC. I found one Meece name on that polished gray monument to pitiful politics: Mac Hughlen Meece.
An internet search showed he was shot and killed in the door of a helicopter flying a hundred and ten knots at thirty-five feet high near Cu Chi, Vietnam. It was a week before his twentieth birthday.
He was from a rural Kentucky community called Drum in the foothills of the Appalachians off State Route 80 east of Somerset, where I was born but did not reside. He was undoubtedly related to me. I enlisted in the Navy in 1962, and he enlisted in the Army in 1963.
I served comfortably aboard a destroyer, the USS Edwards, DD950, doing naval gunfire support from five miles offshore. He was camped in an Army hooch with the 5th Cavalry of the 25th Infantry Division doing helicopter recon in the Iron Triangle near Saigon.
We served our best and believed the bootcamp political bullshit that said the Vietnamese were hard-core members of a communist monolith of nations that wanted our '56 Chevys and our girlfriends and was going to land on the beaches of Malibu to take them away if we didn't kill them in the jungle; half a world away from California. (It turned out they just wanted socialism and independence from foreign domination, which everybody deserves.) We sailors and soldiers meant well and deserved respect for our bravery but not for our political astuteness.
After the Paris Peace Accords, we abandoned Vietnam without apology for all the atrocities and without any celebrations about the glory of an unnecessary war that accomplished no good. We left Vietnam worse than we found it.
Mac Meece's family received a stone tablet for Mac's grave in Barnesburg, Kentucky, but unfortunately, it has an error about his Army Division; it says he was in the 28th, not the 25th. That made the marker less impressive.
The lesson of Vietnam was ignored by Congress when they voted in 2003, thirty years after Vietnam, to approve George Bush's second invasion of a sovereign nation—First Afghanistan and then Iraq. American Big Shots hated President Saddam Hussein for nationalizing his oil away from the Big Oil corporations. (After they hung him, they returned Iraq's oil industry to capitalism. We left Iraq worse than we found it.) Congress' ignorant vote made the lesson of 58,000 deceased Americans in Vietnam less important. Those who live for profits don't worry about wars because they don't go to them. They don't forget; they ignore the lessons of war.
I could not find Drum on any map. It never became a township, was never more than a few farmhouses in the Kentucky hollers with beautiful hills and creeks, and where people lived without a store and a post office.
I am very sorry he is gone. Although I love and respect Mac's honor, the tragedy of the Vietnam War and the fading of his old Drum, Kentucky home make his death less worthwhile.
So, I support Vietnam Veterans Against War. The rational voice of war-fighters themselves is a significant reason we have any peace today. Humanity will always need veterans who cannot ignore it and will not give the profiteers a free path to gore.
Allen "Somerset" Meece is the author of "Tin Can," a novel about a Tonkin Gulf Incident in 1964, and "Brave New Mars," a sci-fiction novel about the Corporatization of Mars in 2084.