Theodore's World: Good Enough to Die For by Russ Vaughn

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December 17, 2006

Good Enough to Die For by Russ Vaughn

Good Enough to Die For

By Russ Vaughn
American Thinker

I have just read a mea culpa by Vietnam War protestor, novelist and poet, Pat Conroy, who possesses the literary skills to express what I am willing to bet many other older American males, his former brothers at the barricades, also feel, but lack the skills and the honesty to articulate. It is left to men like the politically born again David Horowitz and novelist Conroy to speak for these old troupers of the Left's long-haired legions, to reveal their long hidden recognition that they were possibly misguided in their protesting but more often than most will ever admit, motivated more by fear of serving in combat than by any sense of moral/political rectitude.

For that reason this is an issue that reverberates only within the ranks of male protestors of that era. For the braless, hygiene and make-up challenged young women of the movement, there existed no threat of death or disfigurement in combat, so the purity of their motives is questionable only in the intellectual, not the moral sense. They may have been naïve fools but they weren't hiding a blushing personal cowardice behind the skirts of world socialism. This then, is an issue of character only for these now old, greying men who, like Conroy, must eventually face the moral consequences of their actions in those turbulent days.

As someone who, like most of us, has experienced events in my life where I now wish that I had shown more moral and physical courage, more honesty, and most importantly, more unquestioning love and understanding of family, I know how those failures live with you long after the memories of trying to do so many things right have dimmed. Many of my lapses involved nothing more than minor events where I failed to speak up, or stand up and be counted, or even stand up and be knocked down; but regardless of their minor nature, it is these life events that forever remain active in my psyche. In my mid-sixties now, I have learned all too well that it's not the fights you won or even the fights you lost that keep niggling away at the edges of your conscience: it's the fights you failed to fight when you knew damned well that you should.

Deceased author John D. MacDonald, who wrote the wonderful Travis McGee mystery series, once explained through his fictional hero, McGee, the way to make correct moral decisions and it is a simple wisdom that has stayed in my brain, but not always exemplified by my behavior, through the remainder of my life. It is nothing more than this: do the hard thing. When faced with tough choices, look to that course of action which is the one you want least to follow because it appears to be the most difficult for you; it may hurt personally, but almost always, it is the right course for you to follow for the good of others.

My belief is that a lot of Vietnam War protestors were rightfully fearful of the physical perils of combat, as were all those of us who chose to serve there; but where we tamped down those fears and continued the mission, they wrongfully used a contrived moral outrage against the war as convenient cover to conceal their cowardice. To buttress that theory one simply has to look at how the huge, angry protests diminished, and ultimately disappeared in a remarkably short time once Congress ended the military draft. As young, draft-age men, all those angry protestors were able at the time to righteously rationalize away their true motivation until Congress stole their alibi, and only now, with the awareness and self-accounting that comes with age, are they, like Pat Conroy, facing the truth of their personal cowardice. Sadly, too late, they have come to realize the truth of Conroy's most perceptive quote:

"America is good enough to die for even when she is wrong."

I believe those are words worthy of being carved into every war memorial in America. And I am thankful that I and all my brothers and sisters at arms who served then, and those who serve now, possessed then and now, but even in our callow youth, the intrinsic wisdom to recognize that truth. All Americans must die, but those who understand this fundamental reality about this very unique nation will die with their chins held just a few degrees higher than those who didn't realize it when they should have, but now do, like Conroy and his legions, and sadly, those young people of today who still do not.

SSGT Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66

Also posted at:
* Old War Dogs

Posted by Wild Thing at December 17, 2006 01:55 AM


An amazing admission by the author of The Great Santini. Pat Conroy touches on the great divide of the 60's generation male Baby Boomers, those that avoided Vietnam and those that served.

When I entered the Army in 1965 most of my high school and college friends were already planning how to avoid the growing war in Vietnam. The politicians, led by LBasswipeJ, left many doors open for young men to legitimately stay out of Vietnam. Deferments such as college enrollment, marriage, physical/emotional maladies and National Guard slots decreased one's odds of ever having to experience the smell of burning shit or the crack of incoming bullets.

I went out of a sense of patriotism, but on my return to America, I was chastised and labeled a fool by some of those former "friends?". Though some actively vilified my Vietnam service, others just avoided me.

Some of the most vicious attacks came from females. It was the trend/fad of the day. Most of those young women could not find Asia on a map, let alone understand the politics of Vietnam or the Cold War.

Over the years, almost 4 decades now, I have reflected many, many times on Vietnam's influence on me and my generation. Almost my entire circle of civilian friends changed in April '68 when I DEROSeD from Vietnam. Mostly it was their decision, not mine. But, even if they had been welcoming, I would have drifted away from those circles. There was a barrier now. I had served with a different breed of American man and, even though I did not fully realize it for a few years, I did not respect the self-serving attitude of either the bragging or the shameful draft dodgers.

On rare occassion now I hear from one of my pre-Vietnam acquaintances. That barrier is still there. I have heard from a few other avoiders that they feel some shame and guilt now in later life. Shame for letting others go while they themselves hid and/or guilt for the way they treated returning vets. Their hell of shame and guilt has to be worse than any of my experiences.

Russ Vaughn, in his poetry and writings, always expresses my thoughts better than I can. I hope he keeps writing for a long time.

Posted by: TomR at December 17, 2006 04:31 AM

Thank you Chrissie for posting this, Russ Vaughn has, as always, a way with the written word that gets to the essence.
Tom has described what a lot of us experienced, prior, during and after our experiences. My era began in April of '68 just as Tom DEROSed.
The levels of hatred and disrespect of the servicemen and women were at a fever pitch then and being from a small town didn't isolated you from the vehemence they expressed. Upon my return I experienced all the bad things they had to offer, I came to McCord AFB in battle fatigues, straight from Vietnam via C141to be isolated in a hanger for a minor debriefing then wisked off to Ft. Lewis for more isolation from the local soldiers and the civilian population to be processed out. Within 72 hrs. we were on the street, no decompression time, released into a hostile United States and back in my hometown.
Withing a day I told my wife to pack her shit and that we were leaving, I had no job and no chance of getting one there. Other than family ties, I and my fellow home town veterans were as welcome there as a whore in church. I moved back 4 years later for 2 years then left permanently. The local VA at the time was made up of WWII and Korean Vets, when I broached the idea of joining their attitude was 'we didn't fight in a real war' so I canned the idea of ever joining, it wasn't a real war to them, so be it!!! Back then we didn't even enjoy the support of fellow veterans. In the years since I've been to a 35th reunion of my former unit members hosted by a newer breed of American in the same unit who like back then sacrificed it all for this country for little or no recognition, for me that is all the recognition I need, their support. Veterans to support veterans, who else would know but they who have been there. Thank you Tom and all my fellow veterans who visit this wonderful blog that Chrissie has so generously provided.
And for the Cowards amongst us, Samuel Adams said it best:

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."

--Samuel Adams

Posted by: Jack at December 17, 2006 10:36 AM

If I may chime in...

this sentence in Patrick's confession left a sour taste in my mouth:

"I understand now that I should have protested the war after my return from Vietnam, after I had done my duty for my country."

It seems to me that Patrick has a bit more to learn about cowardice and a lot more to learn about supporting the troops who do the hard stuff so you can sit back and do the easy stuff.

Patrick still needs to learn the simple truth that you can't support the troops without supporting their mission.

The former soldiers who crawled into bed with the anti-war crowd upon their return from battle did great damage to our troops and their mission, they not only abandoned their brothers-in-arms, they turned on them like a pack of rabid dogs. If joining them is what hindsight makes him wish he had done, then I believe Patrick Conroy has to look a little deeper, and travel a little further down the path of redemption for his actions in the 60s.

It seems to me that Patrick landed just short of the mark.

But that's just my opinion.

Posted by: LindaSoG at December 17, 2006 11:42 AM

Linda, if Conroy had gone, odds are he would have not been a war protester later. He probably would not have been in Kerry's tiny group of mostly phonies.

Posted by: TomR at December 17, 2006 12:32 PM

Linda, Jack & Tom, you guys are right on the money.

I was the only one of my group of friends to serve. All went directly to college, got deferrment after deferrment while attending daily anti-war protests.

One of my closer friends at that time turned out to be a Marxist as were his parents. He is an investment counselor living in Carmel, lives in a large home in the hills, drives a new Mercedes, has lots of money and absolutely hates our way of life.

BTW, if you haven't seen Shadow of the Blade, make sure that you do. Oh and HI Chrissie

Posted by: cuchieddie at December 17, 2006 12:32 PM

Linda I agree completly with what you said about Patrick Conroy. I have zero tolerance for anyone that would protest the Vietnam war, even if they say they would do it after trhe war. It makes no difference to be when they do it, I hate that person with all that is in me.

Patrick Conroy has still a lot to learn.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 17, 2006 12:55 PM

Tom, I can never forgive those that protested the Nam war. I just can't. I can't forgive those that treated our Nam Vets so horribly. You all gave so much and I have such tremendous respect for what you all did.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 17, 2006 01:14 PM

Jack thank you for that quote.

From my work with Veterans over the years, to be so honored to meet them and get to know them one things stands out and that is the brotherhood. I love that so much and respect it. I think that even adds to why my anger with traitors to that brotherhood hurts so much more, like people like Kerry etc. They put knivess so to speak through the hearts of my beloved Veterans and I will never forgive them....never.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 17, 2006 01:19 PM

Cuchieddie, good to see you.
That person you wrote about will never be the man you are, he can't even dream about it, it is so foreign to him. The world is a better place because of you and our other Veterans.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 17, 2006 01:23 PM

While Pat Conroy thinks he have been partly motivated by cowardice, I can't say that any man who made it through the Citadel is THAT much of a coward.

I also have to give him credit for realizing the error of his ways, and for being revulsed when it was suggested by his then-fellow leftists that soldiers "frag" their officers.

Forgive me if you think I am a bit naive here, for I am younger than the rest of you (born late 1967) and when many of you men were fighting in Vietnam and you women were nurses, soldiers' wives, or were USO volunteers like Wild Thing, I was crapping in my diapers and nursing from my mom in the suburbs of San Jose. So bear with me if you think I am off base.

So what else do I think motivated Mr. Conroy? Anger, resentment, and even (for a time) hatred of (1) his apparently abusive father, and (2) the Citadel Military Academy. Those feelings come out palpably to me when I read his novels "The Lords of Discipline" and "The Great Santini", which, while novels, one could sense were in very large measure autobiographical. (Apparently, Mr. Conroy did reconcile with his father before the latter died.)

Ben Stein, lawyer, profesor, writer, and one of the few conservatives in Hollywierd, once wrote that he noticed, as a general rule, that many HollyLeftists he ran into had strained or even hostile relationships with their fathers, and their activism was a way to "act out" that. Conservatives, on the other hand, tended to really admire their fathers and want to please them. (There are execptions to every rule and your mileage may vary, but among my peers I do notice a pattern).

For David Horowitz, however, I think it's another story. For he and his "New Leftists" of the 1960's came from a sad and sick subculture of "Old Leftist" anti-American communists, as he describes in his book "Radical Son". Another ex-Commie, Ronald Radosh, has a great book out called "Commies: Inside The Old Left, The New Left, And The Leftover Left".

Horowitz and Radosh were not motivated by cowardice; they were BRED and raised to be anti-Americans. And both of their autobiographies describe, partly humorously, partly shockingly, how deep the roots of this anti-American subculture were and are, as well as the "road to Damascus" moments when they realized that what they had been raised and taught to believe was a sick lie.

The Commies who trashed the universities in the late 1960's were running the very same universities when I was a student in the late 1980's and 1990's, and they still are, as well as much of the media and much of the bureaucracy. Joe McCarthy, despite his alcoholism, was onto something.

Posted by: Nick Byram at December 20, 2006 04:05 PM

Nick, thank you so much for your comment. I always enjoy your comments and appreciate them.

Yes I do think your right about Pat Conroy, I think he is angry and I do givei him credit for comoing as far as he has. It is almost as though he has almost made it but is just a little ways to go yet. But he is very close to understanding.

Nick thank you again soooo much.

Posted by: Wild Thing at December 21, 2006 04:29 AM