Tag Archives: Vietnam War

If only…

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In my junior year of high school, way back in the 70’s, a fight broke out between a group of white and a group of black students.  It happened outside of the school during a recess period.  I heard it got violent, the police were called, and I don’t remember many other details except that I was in class and the school was put on lockdown. I do remember we were all frightened because we were not exactly sure of what was happening or why. The students involved ran, and I don’t know if any were caught or detained. The principal would not let anyone out of the building. The buses would not run that day, and you were not allowed to walk home. The administration started calling parents to pick their child up as they were not going to be allowed to leave without a parent or guardian accompanying them. My mom didn’t drive, so she had to find a neighbor who did, and that neighbor came and picked me up with my mom.

Since I had just transferred from a strict Catholic high school, I was overwhelmed by all of this. I was quiet and reserved, and this was mind-boggling. We were all apprehensive after that never knowing the real story vs. the rumors or whether it would happen again. The situation was never addressed or clarified in any way. No announcement; no letter home. But eventually life went on and besides a few minor skirmishes, nothing major happened for the rest of the year.

That time period, in general, was one of great unrest in the country at large, and it was not unusual for schools to have random clashes between the races. It was not unusual to have kids smoking pot out in the courtyard during recess either. Civil unrest was at full tilt in the world with protesting galore. The Vietnam War was stealing our youth with senseless deaths. Peacemakers John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated.  Four students at Kent State University were killed and nine others injured during a protest against the Vietnam War by the National Guard who open fired into the crowd. It was one of the greatest tragedies in our history.  I remember a few years later stopping at Kent State University while driving across the country wanting to see the place where this had happened. It was eerily quiet and felt like sacred ground. This was the place where four young college kids lost their lives at the hands of the National Guard because they dared to march for what they believed in, which, ironically, was peace. There was now only a plaque commemorating that fatal day. Their bravery in standing up for what they believed was heroic. I was just rambling around trying to figure out what to do with my life during this hostile era. I really hoped for the end of the Vietnam War and wanted peace. I really wanted racial harmony and the end of brutality. But I did not proactively take a stand or try to do anything to help make it happened. If only I had tried…

The world is still a mess. Today we have people protesting the brutal murder by police of George Floyd and the many others victimized by police brutality. We also have a horrendous pandemic with US deaths by Covid-19 surpassing a total of 110,000 today. Protesters are literally risking their lives to make a stand against horrific racial brutality. There is no peace. Our nation is crying out for change. Change that is so desperately needed. And yet we have the so-called leader of our country hiding in a bunker below the White House ranting incoherently through social media.  A so-called leader who commissioned the national guard to push peaceful protesters back with tear gas and rubber bullets to make way for his photo opt in front of a church holding a Bible. Not his Bible, by the way. “A bible” he clarified when asked. Did he say a prayer? No. Did he offer words of encouragement to a hurting people. No. If only…

If only…systemic change was proactively initiated back in the 70’s or 60’s or 50’s or in 1619 when slavery in the United States began. If only…I had been more proactive at a younger age in recognizing the need for and advocating for change. If only… I, as an individual had chosen another path in life to work towards a better world. If only…

I pray that reform will be initiated now for the good because we just cannot go on with the way history has played out in this country up until now. I still look to the future with hope that we as a united people will do better to make this country and the world a better place. I know in my heart of hearts that it can happen. I wish I had done more with different and wiser life choices to help to bring it about. I wish I had paid more attention to the details. But I ask you through my failures to find out the facts of what is happening and why and how you can be a part of making it materialize. And I will try to find a way in this late stage of my life to make a difference as well. I know I can immediately start by voting.

Please remember this moment in time and how our leadership is failing us and vote. This is the one most important thing we can all do right now for the common good.

My prayer is that God will bless America and help us to do better as a nation united together in understanding, love, kindness, caring and harmony. No more “If onlys…”

 

BE STRONG, BE BRAVE, BE HOPEFUL

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Back in May I wrote a blog entitled, “Memorial Day Remembrance” about a POW bracelet I used to wear during the Vietnam War in support of an American prisoner of war, Lt. Col. Louis F. Makowski. I repeated the story in my column in the Forked River Gazette for the 4th of July issue as an “Independence Day Remembrance.” Wearing the POW bracelet in his honor became a symbol of strength, bravery and hope for me, and when I had the privilege of watching Lt. Col. Makowski arrive home on TV, my heart leapt with pride and thanks to God for bringing him safely home.

It’s been almost 40 years since his release from that prison camp in Vietnam, where he was incarcerated for 6 ½ years. I’ve often wondered since then what became of him. So after the story was published, I decided to do some detective work and find out. I wrote him a letter and sent him a copy of the essay. I am happy to say I received a response from him just yesterday and wanted to share the good news with you. I am pleased to report he is doing well. Now retired from the United States Air Force with the rank of Colonel, he lives a quiet life with his wife of 58 years, has four children and four grandchildren.

Among other things, Colonel Makowski wrote that he has hope for the future and our country’s winning back our God given American values. My heart was humbled by his very kind words to me, and I thanked this courageous and wonderful man for taking the time to respond. The lesson he has taught me through this experience is no matter what your circumstances are and how hard life can get, be strong, be brave and be hopeful.  You can survive the trials you go through and go on to live a happy life.

God bless you, Colonel Louis F. Makowski, and God bless America!