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"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

...............................................................Thomas Jefferson

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Long War


War Talk takes on many forms. "Shop, shop, shop..." Or, this morning on CNN, Admiral William C. Fallon telling Kyra Phillips his recent (forced? ya think?) retirement isn't the story, confidence in the chain of command is. Or last night, on The Daily Show, John Stewart grilling Scott McClellan about the intent to mislead as pretty much the prime directive of George Bush and his administration, and ultimately Bush's ability to deceive himself. Mary Cheney shootin' off 'er mouth to the rightwing AIPAC organization about confronting Iran....

Today, on the final primary day of the Democratic nominating process, the attention is understandably focused on whether Barack Obama will lock in the nomination tonight. Will the speech in Minneapolis be "the" speech that kicks off the general election campaign.

But we need to take a moment and consider again why these votes all matter so very much.

This morning, Marine sergeant John (D.J.) Guerrero is undergoing his second surgery on the amputation of his right foot at Fargo's VA hospital. It's been a long, often painful journey that this old soldier has made. First, from the barrio of Sacramento to service in the Marines. And then, when schrapnel shot up the left side of his body, embedded, and took part of his left hand, life brought him to Fargo, where he found a home.

And where he became a good neighbor to a whole community. Tirelessly volunteering for organizations like the NDSU Teammakers and the ND Special Olympics. Co-authoring a series of books with Father William C. Sherman on the various immigrant groups who settled our state. Looking forward to the next book in the works, from the diary of a long-ago immigrant across the plains.

Visiting John yesterday, we chuckled over old times--the peaceniks and the Marine sergeant--for our friendship goes back decades.

John calls himself a poster child for the consequences of Agent Orange, because it's been some 40 years that he has, with too many other servicemen and women like him, struggled for acountability for the damage that weapon of war inflicted upon him...40 years, while it silently ate away at his body.

John was recently at the reunion of A Company, First Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Albuquerque when he went to the local VA hospital because his foot was in pretty tough shape. We know about such matters, even if their origin was not war. Rather than staying in Albuquerque for the necessary surgery, he had them bind him up, and he drove the long drive back to Fargo. Back home.

So today, we see the great tapestry of life weave some interesting strands. Two men, old friends, commiserating on the long road of disability ahead. Two men, who when they were young, vagabonded from Fargo to San Diego on a long ago quest for adventure. Now, timeworn and life-tested. One a disabled American veteran. One, my own sunshine.

When a certain politician jokes about Iraq and says 100 years, why not... just remember, even if we're not there in combat, the consequences are indeed that long. It's been four decades, and the consequences of Viet Nam still live within us, all of us.

So send some good karma to prairie country for John Guerrero today. And for all the John Guerreros this current war is making.

Cross-posted today at NorthDecoder.

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