It was around age 15 when a friend's brother came home in a box from Vietnam that I began to question the nobility of war. I was 17 when an aging John Wayne tried to do for Vietnam what he had done for us in World War ll and Korea, "The Green Berets" was full to the brim with noble causes, chock full of heroic gestures, and full up with dead bodies, mostly those evil Viet Cong. And John dutifully died at the end of the flick like any good hero should. At least that is how I remember it.
When once I used to feel the patriotic juices welling up at the sight of the Duke blasting his way into a bunker to save his battalion from sure annihilation, I just sat there and and felt sad. It had only been a few days earlier a good friend had come home in fewer pieces than when he left. His unwillingness to speak of the evil he had witnessed and the evil he may have done spoke more to me than if he had given me the blow by blow. The year in Vietnam had made him old before his time. Maimed and bitter he turned up the drugs he had fallen into in the Army and ended up dying of an overdose 2 years later.
By age 19, I was against the war, but willing to go if called. Something inside me still clung to the images of God and Country the Duke had embedded in my brain so many years earlier. The war may be wrong but it was still a noble undertaking. Naive and sure of my own immortality I had decided to enlist if my lottery number was low enough. It was a sure thing my grades would not keep me out.