Posted by Robert Anderson
Source: Let Them Fight or Bring Them Home - by John Bernard, First Sergeant, USMC (Retired)
Click here to read source
Published: 27 September 2016
John Bernard, First Sergeant, USMC (Retired), a trusted friend and fellow Marine, was privileged to be invited to give a speech to an assemblage of 158 Veterans and family members at an event hosted by the North Reading Veteran's Office in North Reading Massachusetts through the tireless work of Susan Magner, the Town's Veteran's Office Representative.
The event is held annually and seeks to show support for the Veteran community in the area with a dinner, guest speakers, Honor for the Fallen and the presence of a Marine Corps Color Guard and more.
It is a classy and well appointed affair held in a room filled with like-minded Americans who are concerned for the welfare of the Nation and most importantly, the welfare of the Veterans who have paid the price to secure the freedoms this Nation has enjoyed for 240 years.
Here is the transcript of the Speech without additional commentary:
* * * *
The origin of this quote is suspect, but it's value as a truism, is not;
“People sleep peacefully in their beds with the knowledge that Rough Men Stand Ready to do violence on their behalf.”
I was just ten years old and attending Miss Doucette’s 5th grade class at the Swain School in Wilmington when BLT’s 3/9 and 1/3 disembarked the USS Henrico, Union and Vancouver at 0815, 08 March 1965.
They made their way ashore just north of the Da Nang Air Base. The mission was straight forward; take over security of the air base and relieve the South Vietnamese Army so they could return to the battlefield.
I don’t recall the particulars of the mission from the memory of that 10 year old child but rather as a United States Marine some years later and having studied the history of the Vietnam War. However, as a child who grew up during that time, I was bombarded with stories of the conflict on TV which included casualty lists, negative reporting and the souring of US opinion.
I recall the facts, figures, battles, names, weaponry and highlights of the ten years that followed; information lived out by men, some of whom are in this room today. Men who swore an oath, followed orders and shipped out to the tiny country that became a focus of effort in the greater region of Indochina where the Chinese Communists were attempting to spread the ideology of Communism to the entire region. Talking heads have since renounced the Domino Theory, but there is far more evidence supporting it, than not.
I also recall listening to students in my High School class disparage the very existence and character of the uniformed men some of whom were not much older than they and in some instances, former neighbors. I was both ashamed and frustrated by the anti-war movement of the day and left cursing the day of my birth because it left me too young to join in time to share in the hardships being experienced by men I already considered Brothers.
For those of you who fought in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, your return home was not to the sound of Brass Bands and the sight of unfurled Flags but to the ranting of the undisciplined, the uneducated, the amoral segment of society that all too often is offered both the microphone and the camera without scrutiny. You deserved far more for the indignities you were asked to endure; the loss of Brothers you still mourn, the wounds you suffered. There was little I could do as an underage school student appalled by what I was witnessing but I can certainly pause now and Thank you for the Courage and Commitment to the Oath you displayed and say Welcome Home!
As far as the average American citizen is concerned, that fateful day in March of 1965, marked the beginning of US involvement in Vietnam; a war that most school books say lasted 10 years.
In truth, US involvement began in earnest on the 7th of May 1954 with the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu at the hands of the Viet Minh. The French had been fighting in the region since 1946; that conflict became known as the First Indochina War. When they withdrew under the influence of the 1954 Geneva Accord, France had suffered 76,000 dead, 64,000 wounded and another 40,000 captured.
By the time Operation Frequent Wind was complete on the 30th of April in 1975, WE had suffered the loss of 58, 315 American War Fighters and 303,644 wounded.
Sadly, history does not record a single positive thing to come from so costly an effort.
Not many miles away on the tiny Peninsula of Malay, the British were mired in their own unfortunate campaign to oust 2500 Chinese Communists who had crossed the Thai border with orders to destabilize the British backed Malay Colonial government and to build support for a replacement Communist regime.
The Malayan Emergency commenced in 1948 when those 2500 insurgent Chi-Coms murdered several Rubber Tree Plantation owners and their workers sparking a request for intervention by British forces. The British remained on mission in Malay until 1960 when it was believed the last of those insurgents had been eradicated or displaced. The experience cost the Malay people and the British some 12,000 dead, 5,000 wounded and Britain, control of Malaysia and this, after a 135 year symbiotic relationship with Malay as a colony of the Crown. Tragically, the Chinese inserted more combatants in 1967 and Malaysia continued the fight to extract them until 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and left the Communist effort disillusioned.
The history of war in that region, from the end of World War II until the disgraceful extraction of those last Americans and Vietnamese informants from the roof of our Embassy in Saigon on the 29th and 30th of April in 1975, was due to the misguided efforts of several retired Military Officers and a war weary Washington DC determined to never again see a world at war.
Their creation was a manual of strategic operations known as the Small Wars Manual published in 1945. That manual lays the groundwork for the worst possible strategy for operations in the battle space ever contrived by the mind of men; the Counter Insurgency Operation.
We called the Vietnam War, a Police Action. In the last few decades we have referred to these small wars as Nation Building Operations but by whatever name men choose to cloak it with, it is in fact, a Counter Insurgency Operation.
COIN ops put two dynamic pressures on American War Fighters that are unique in the Annals of History; first, it places a premium on the lives of non-combatants in the Battle Space while exponentially increasing the responsibilities placed on the shoulders of the PFC’s and LCPL’s forced to operate within its strictures.
It also scrubs from the vernacular the very definition and use of the word, Victory. It imposes artificial constraints on dynamic entities and demands all those working with those entities to treat them accordingly.
This is the environment into which those Marines were thrust, in 1965 as well as those of all Branches of the Service who followed. They fought for land that our leadership never intended to hold, forced them to endure patrols through jungles laden with booby traps, engaging villagers whose loyalties could not be ascertained; to be led by soft-handed politicians with no vision or publicly specified purpose only to then return home to a nation that seemed filled with hate for the war and warrior alike.
In the years that have followed, we have seen an unending list of operations forced into the COIN paradigm by politicians with no basic understanding of honor, of courage or commitment and who lack the basic character traits which are prerequisite for Leadership. These politicians dictate a need for Military force without an associated Mission Statement and no detailing of goal or mission conclusion.
Malay, Indochina, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and the list goes on…. Are all failures and all drenched with the innocent blood of the Honorably serving Military Forces of America and her Western Allies…all, prosecuted within the framework of the most reviled strategy in the history of warfare; COIN. What a dismal tally.
In fact the only accountable victory since the Japanese surrender in September of 1945, is the defeat of Saddam’s forces in Kuwait, in 1991. We won in Kuwait, because the Kuwaiti government gave us carte blanche to enter Kuwait and to use whatever force was deemed necessary to destroy infrastructure and anything else to accomplish one thing; extricate the Iraqi Forces that had attacked and occupied Kuwait.
However, no matter how inept and vile this Nation’s politicians can be; no matter how lacking in basic intestinal fortitude, void of vision, uncaring, amoral and hamstrung; no matter the lack of any sense of righteous indignation for those intent to do us harm, there is one thing that remains certain….
No man or woman who has ever sworn the oath of enlistment should ever feel the least bit of shame or responsibility for the epic failures of the Political animal to provide a simple Mission Statement and to give the War Fighter every single weapon necessary to secure a victory for his Nation.
We are not responsible for the inanity emanating from the lesser creatures who occupy Washington DC. We who have sworn oaths to defend our Nations and Constitutions; our very cultures since time immemorial, do so understanding and living the concepts of Personal Honor, Personal Courage, Commitment to the Mission and the need to develop those character traits necessary to embody those Virtues..
The responsibility for the indignities we suffer on the Battlefield, the carrying of the memories of lost Brothers and families, lost Sons; blood shed on foreign lands at the behest of the political machine in DC, rests at the feet of the politician and the voter who put him there.
I would like to leave you with a quote from a Rudyard Kipling Poem entitled, Tommy Atkins which has given me comfort for all the years I served and all those years I watched the Vietnam Veteran serve. It is a metaphor for all of us who have carried water in the politicians sieve and gives me a comfort that can only come from knowing I have been numbered among men and women I hold in my heart as Brethren of the Sword. It is a reminder to me that we first, Serve. It is a reminder to me now, that I am served by those who have followed and that they are the best of their generation.
Now, for those of you who don’t know; Tommy Atkins is the British GI Joe. Rudyard Kipling served in his Majesties Forces and this is how he saw what we have been talking about:
I went into a publi-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play
May God always keep a hedge of protection around the American War Fighter and protect him from Friendly, and Foe alike!