A different perspective | VailDaily.com

A different perspective

This will probably make me sound un-American but I am tired of memorials.

It’s not that the firemen and policemen and the people in the Pentagon didn’t do a good job. A lot of them did. Some of them, and we don’t know how many, died by accident, and maybe not heroically. We have paid their families dearly for their loss. Some of those families are now millionaires.

What happens when the next attack comes? How much do we pay to the victims’ families? Why doesn’t the federal government pay the families of all firemen and policeman all over the country that are killed in the line of duty? Some of them died very heroically fighting against enemies of the public.

How much of that huge fund that was raised for victims of the 9/11 attack goes to the families of servicemen killed in Afghanistan?

The men killed at Pearl Harbor didn’t get much except a watery grave. Their families got at most $10,000 from the government. I am not sure that they got anything because that insurance may not have gone into effect until later in the war.

If I had died in Vietnam, Nancy (the colonel’s wife) would have received a $10,000 check from Uncle Sam, and if she and the kids where living on base they would have been given a month to move.

What we did certainly was not for the money. We did it because that is what we were supposed to do. You cannot pay people for dying, unless you happen to be an insurance company. The police and firemen were doing their job. They knew the risk inherent in their professions.

The civilians killed were killed by an enemy of our country in an act of war. Throughout history, millions of civilians have died in wars. We all take that risk at birth and there is no way to compensate for that loss.

We have got to stop looking back and start to look forward. We have a very serious war to fight and we have to do it correctly. If every loss has to receive a huge monetary payment, maybe we are not worth fighting for. To be born an American is compensation enough, and we should serve proudly.

I hope this does not sound like sour grapes on my part because of what happened to the servicemen returning from Vietnam. Most of us just wanted a simple thank you.

It seems to me that firemen, policemen and supposed victims are milking the tragic events of 9/11 for money. I am tired of that attitude. There are casualties in all wars. Let’s get on with winning it.”

A bit strident? I’m not so certain when one considers the source. The man who wrote it is a much-decorated Marine aviator who flew over 800 combat missions during several tours in Vietnam. He was a beloved leader, a friend and a confidant to the aircrews under his command.

Among his numerous decorations, he was awarded the nation’s second highest military honor, the Navy Cross.

In early 1970, a company of Marines had wandered into a minefield and was taking casualties. The colonel was tasked with their rescue. Without regard for his own safety, and under heavy enemy fire he landed his helicopter six times to pick up the wounded, and carried them back to the 1st Medical Battalion in Da Nang.

The reason he didn’t receive the Congressional Medal of Honor was that his crew chief on that mission received it for stepping outside the helicopter and assisting the wounded Marines onto the aircraft. There’s an unwritten code in the Marine Corps that only one Medal of Honor can be awarded for any given combat mission.

Colonel Ledbetter was my commanding officer during the first six months of my tour in Vietnam, and I know first-hand of this man’s values, commitment and honor. In fact, I was witness to a mission he flew that believe it or not, was even more harrowing than the one noted above. Regardless of the mission, the colonel would tell his pilots, “Hey guys, this is our job. Let’s get it done.” Is it any wonder he wrote what he did about 9/11?

In “A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character” Charles Sykes states, “In a culture of sound bites and slogans substituted for rational argument, the claim that one is a victim has become one of the few universally recognized currencies of intellectual exchange.”

To this we might add the comments of Tom Lindberg, a writer for the Weekly Standard, “The paradox of victimization is that claiming (victim) status is actually and assertion of superiority, because the victim’s unimpeachable righteousness proclaims that unless you’ve gone what I’ve gone through you cannot really know what it’s like to be victimized.”

Sept. 11 was a moment of truth for Americans, and I hope we are finding our true character again – a character that takes responsibility for our actions and accepts the cards we are dealt without whining.

We must honor those who perished on 9/11 (I had my headlights on yesterday). We must also do whatever it takes to prevent a reoccurrence.

But most of all, we must unconditionally defeat this enemy who would take our way of life from us.

So as the colonel admonishes, let’s get on with it.

Butch Mazzuca of Singletree can be reached at bmazz@centurytel.net

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