May 27, 2019

Honoring My Dad and the Fallen

By Glenn

Memorial Day always makes me think of my dad-Yves “Buster” Melancon.  He served for twenty-seven years in the United States Army and went to Vietnam twice.  As a Combat Engineer, Dad wasn’t directly engaged in the fighting, but he did travel throughout the war zone.  I always wonder how my life would have been different if Dad had never come home.

I was lucky.  Thousands of sons and daughters lost their parents to the war in Vietnam.  Once, when I was an adult, and after he had retired, I asked my dad to tell me about his experiences.  He simply said, “all I know is that a lot of good brothers died for no reason,” and then he started to cry.  I never heard the rest of the story.

Now, I’m a dad and my son-Christopher Yves-Paul Melancon joined the United States Army.  He serves as a Combat Engineer.  I wish my dad were still alive.  He would be proud. I know I am.

Millions of men and woman-like my dad and my son-have sacrificed themselves to serve and protect you and me.  Do we do enough to protect them?  Do we do enough to prevent “a lot of good brothers” from dying “for no reason”?  I was convinced President Obama understood that he had their lives in his hands.

In a commencement speech to the Naval Academy graduates, President Obama made a promise to them.  He also made a promise to my son.  President Obama said, “as long as I am your Commander in Chief, I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy, the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support you need to get the job done.”

The President clearly articulated the lessons of Vietnam.  Now, it just seems like common sense.  Unfortunately, in 2003 too few Washington politicians-neither Democratic nor Republican-thought to apply this lesson to Iraq.  It was an unnecessary war, based on a naïve strategy.  Making the situation worse, our brave men and women lacked the proper body armor and armored vehicles to keep them safe.

We now know that the failure of the Bush Administration to do its homework produced chaos.  Lacking a well-defined strategy, Donald Rumsfeld cut corners.  He didn’t trust the military and turned to outside contractors.  They convinced him that torture and humiliation could win a war.  They were wrong. Donald Trump is doing it again, ignoring evidence, sowing discord among our allies, and praising the barbaric practice of torture.

Even with such poor leadership in Iraq, however, our armed forces persevered.  They looked for long-destroyed Weapons of Mass Destruction.  They toppled Saddam Hussein and supervised three Iraqi elections.  Thankfully, President Obama reduced our troops in Iraq and lead our troops home from Iraq.

I have no doubt our military can achieve its mission on the battlefield. The problem is after the war. As Collin Powell said, “You break it, you own it.” How much blood and treasure have politicians wasted because of Iraq? How much more chaos was added to the world? The Middle East is clearly less stable.

Almost eighteen years after the murderous attacks on America, we, the American voters, should see clearly. A destructive war without a clear exist strategy makes us weaker, not stronger. We need a strong diplomatic and humanitarian effort to work alongside of our brave servicemen and women. The world is not our enemy. Reaching out a hand of friendship is just as important as eliminating the terrorist threat.

My dad always told me that no one hates war more than the soldier.  Soldiers know that the price of glory is high.  A reckless and foolish foreign policy not only wastes trillions of dollars, but more importantly, it risks the lives of our loved ones.  I can think of no better way to honor my dad and the Fallen than to make sure his grandson doesn’t die in a purposeless and fruitless war.

***Originally written in 2009. updated 2019***

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