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After the Persian Gulf War
We pretty much ignored the Persian Gulf war in the WIND, mostly because it was over between one issue and the next. None of us is sorry about that. Like everyone else, we watched television, read the papers, listened to the radio, were skeptical of the politicians, worried about the people who were in Southwest Asia, and hoped for the best.
As an aging warrior who was pretty much dumped on for taking part in the last war, again, like everyone else, I fervently hoped that a) this wouldn’t turn into another extended affair we wouldn’t win, and b) that it wouldn’t cost a great many American lives.
In looking back on it, I will remember two events very clearly. The first concerns a middle aged friend of mine in Boulder. His name is Bang Nguyen and he came here from Vietnam 15 years ago, because he had been in the South Vietnamese Army and he couldn’t stay there when the place finally fell. Now he works at the University of Colorado as a very skilled print reproduction technician, making sure teachers and administrators have plenty of papers to hand out.
When the Persian Gulf War was over, he called me aside and, with tears in his eyes, asked, “Why couldn’t you have done that for us? Oh, I’m so glad for those people, but why couldn’t you have done that for us? Yes, there are thousands of Kuwaitis, but there were millions of us…”
“Bang,” I said, “the world has changed. Those of us who were there could have won the war, and we would have liked to, believe me, but the politicians wouldn’t let us. People like Bush and Schwarzkopf learned from those mistakes, and that’s why it didn’t happen this time. Sometimes those lessons are very costly. I’m sorry.”
And he looked at me, and nodded his head, and the tears came down, and I knew he was thinking about his friends and relatives and comrades-in-arms and 58,000 Americans who had died so we in America could learn this lesson, and I had to silently agree with him that it didn’t seem worth it.
The second event was the return of the CBS news crew and the POWs who were prisoners for 40 days and who learned, at last, after taking it for granted all their lives, how truly precious freedom is. When they talked about the way they were treated, by people who thought such treatment was the way life should be, you could see that they would never again take freedom for granted.
So it’s over, and we won, and this time I’m happy to say our returning soldiers will be treated with the thanks and respect they deserve. We can continue to buy our gas for less than almost any other country in the world, and we can continue to make fun of our politicians and have plenty to eat, and our vodka isn’t rationed. And for those of us who live here in our mountains, we can continue to revel in the beauty and solitude of this place, and the freedom to do pretty much anything we damn please.
But next time we step out the door, smell that pine scented air and look at that Colorado blue sky, we might take a moment to thank whatever deity we worship, that we happen to be Americans.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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