by John Cory
War is a waltz, A dance with the Devil On the bones of Angels.~John Cory
On September 21st 2007, Sgt. Gerald Cassidy died – alone and forgotten in all the body counts and statistics of war, political polls and campaign strategies. He was unconscious for perhaps days before passing away like crumpled and discarded newsprint, barely noticed, simply brushed aside with yesterday’s lies.
Sergeant Cassidy did not die in Iraq or Afghanistan. He died in America, at a new medical unit in Fort Knox – in America – where we support the troops, according to every single lapel-flag-pin-wearing politician and pundit on the airwaves, and yet, Sgt. Gerald Cassidy died neglected and unnoticed.
Shame on us.
Among headlines for that week were these gems: taken from www.democracynow.org
“Report: Telecoms, White House Lobbying Congress to Dismiss Wiretap Suits”
“Senate Rejects Anti-War Measure, Condemns www.MoveOn.org”
“Bush Vows Child Health Insurance Bill Veto”
Our Senate was too busy creating more veterans and condemning free speech to notice Sgt. Gerald Cassidy. And our president was too busy stealing healthcare from children to have time for someone like Gerald Cassidy. It takes a lot of concentration to rob a child. Adults are easy.
My friend Remy at Welcome Home Soldier does tireless work on behalf of veterans, and she was so pained by the story about Sgt. Cassidy and this article VA Reports up to 30 Percent of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Suffer From TBI, she sent them to me and asked, ”Why do we allow this kind of thing?” And being a true Louisiana belle, she began taking action. If you’re looking for something to do about this issue – go join her.
A group of Vietnam vets from Charlie Company, 1/52nd 198th, posted talk on their forum about the January 2008 article in GQ magazine about PTSD. The article covers Vietnam, 9/11 and all that has followed in Iraq and Afghanistan and PTSD. The article is titled, “The Long Shadow of War”by Kathy Dobie.
And there it is – all the pain and death of yesterday’s lies coming down hard in the winter storms of today.
As I browse through old pictures of my days in war, I find myself wanting to crawl inside a photograph or two just to touch and smell those wonderful faces and hear their voices again. And sometimes when I rub my fingers over a particular photo, I’m never sure which side of the picture I’m on. Am I looking in or looking out?
When Sergeant Cassidy died, he took another piece of America with him. How many more pieces can we lose before we become totally lost ourselves?
Yesterday’s lies kill and wound our troops, and yet Congress, afraid to face the truth, continues to fund and support the great lie of war. So look closely, my friends, and ask yourselves, how it is that we manage to find increasing amounts of money for war but continue to reduce funds for the care of our wounded and suffering troops?
Shame on us.
Have we forgotten our promise to veterans, in Lincoln’s words, “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan?” Are we so penny wise and pound foolish as to begrudgingly buy the bullets yet refuse to pay for the bread and bandages needed for the survivors? Or have we become so jaded that we view the flood of returning wounded as a burgeoning market in the for-profit healthcare industry with war as the ultimate profit generator?
In his farewell address, Gen. Douglas MacArthur spoke these words: “Duty, honor, country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”
Those words were spoken to the cadets at West Point. But they are for us – the citizens of this great experiment in democracy. We should be equally obsessed with duty, honor and country not as a slogan, but as a call to action. There is no “us” or “them” – as though our troops are not part of our daily fabric of American life. It is and was from the beginning, “We the people.” There is no differentiation between civilian and soldier.
Yes, it’s election season and the race is capturing all the ink and airtime. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you Democratic presidential candidates want my vote, then here is what you do:
Go to Dover AFB and don’t tell me they won’t let you in – you’re Congressional members elected by “We the people”, for cripes sake! Go to Dover and meet a plane of caskets and serve as pallbearers for the entire load. Carry them gently and with love for the price they have paid and send them home to their loved ones with a tear and a kiss.
Open your home or a community center somewhere and prepare a meal for several families who have lost their loved ones in this war, or who have wounded to tend to, and feed them the fresh baked bread of compassion and a warm supper of empathy and recognition for their fulfillment of duty, honor, country. Take their children in your arms and listen to them tell you how much they loved their daddy or mommy or uncle. And weep for yourselves that you never met them.
And do this all without cameras, campaign advisers and media consultants. We’ll know about it – trust me. We will know. And if you’re afraid, remember duty, honor, country as defined by General MacArthur, because it applies to you as well.
And then, by God, if you truly want my vote, you will go to Westfield, Indiana, and you will embrace the loved ones of Sgt. Gerald Cassidy and ask for their forgiveness on behalf of a grateful nation. And you will listen as they tell you all about him and show you their family photo album – not just the ones of him in uniform, but the boy and teenager, and the man who lived duty, honor, country. Then you will go to his graveside and place a wreath with the promise that you will never forget him. And on the ride back across the Indiana snow, you will write the beginning legislation that will never let this happen again: The Gerald Cassidy Veterans Bill.
That night as you drift off to sleep, you will hear the whispered lullaby: “War is a waltz, a dance with the Devil on the bones of Angels.” And you will understand.
Then you can sleep the good sleep, knowing you have begun to put an end to yesterday’s lies.
John Cory is a Vietnam veteran. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with V device, 1969 – 1970.