When I was in elementary school, I assumed I would eventually be drafted into the military and would go to Vietnam.
In our school we had a music teacher, of all people, who would get all the guys worked up over it. She told us there were people watching us in public places (like athletic events) when the pledge of allegiance was said or the national anthem was sung, and if we didn’t stand straight with hands over hearts on such occasions, they would make sure we were on the front lines of combat.
I don’t know where she got her information, who those people were supposed to have been or why they would have wanted seemingly disinterested speakers and singers fighting out front. But I took her admonition to heart and stood straight when the pledge was said or anthem sung, in hopes of having a desk job should I ever have to make that trip to Vietnam.
Imagine my relief when I was in junior high school and the Vietnam war ended. By the time I graduated from high school and went to college, I no longer worried about having to go.
Not that I would have shirked my duty if called upon. But from what I had seen and read about Vietnam at the time, it was not a place I wanted to visit. So yes, I was relieved when I learned I probably would not have to go.
I would transition into my adult life without thinking much about war, as we enjoyed a time of peace post-Vietnam. Even the Cold War eventually ended with the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Then came Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the 90s, and the eventual “war on terrorism” after the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. With the perpetual military action in Afghanistan (until the recent withdrawal) and all that has happened with Iran and Iraq, it seems there has been something going on “over there” for 30-ish years.
That “over there” refers to the Middle East and it seems there is always some conflict, whether the U.S. is directly involved or not.
But since the end of the Cold War and with the cordial relationship among North American andEuropean allies, the European area has been mostly peaceful. Although the worth of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) created in 1949 has been debated from time to time, it has provided a sense of security to the U.S., Canada and European countries.
And you know where I am going with this. The “over there” where fighting is now taking place seems a little closer and makes us more uncomfortable as Russian President Vladimir Putin directs the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
We have hoped and prayed for months it would not happen. In the Feb. 20 edition of his newsletter “The French Press” (part of The Dispatch news site), David French of Franklin said he was recently asked, “What are you specifically praying for today?”
His immediate answer was, “I’m praying that God turns Vladimir Putin’s heart from war.” I can’t think of a more appropriate prayer.
Although horrified by it, we should not be surprised by Putin’s actions.
A few years ago, I read John McCain’s book “The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations.”
He wrote it when he knew he was likely dying of cancer, saying he had a few more things to say to Americans. It’s a great retrospective on his political life, particularly his time in the Senate and his unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2008.
He also spent some time lambasting Vladimir Putin and warning readers what he was capable of. He was as direct as he could possibly have been, pointedly writing, “Putin’s goal isn’t to defeat a candidate or a party. He means to defeat the West.”
I admit to a chill going down my spine when I re-read those words with the knowledge of what is happening today.
And I would love to think McCain was wrong(although I’m hardly naïve enough to believe he was).
President Biden has joined European leaders in imposing harsh sanctions against Russia, attempting to essentially cripple the economy there. We will experience inevitable repercussions here, with market volatility and even higher gas prices.
Even the most optimistic of pundits say we are in for a bumpy ride as events unfold, while we continue to pray for peace. (We really need to pray.)
Watching footage of Ukrainians fleeing their homes is heartbreaking. It is all too reminiscent of others doing the same in war-torn parts of Europe less than a century ago, folks like the Ukrainians of today who desire nothing more than freedom – but nothing less, either.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].