Long, long ago in a land far, far away the United States sent some of its’ bravest, smartest, idealistic and patriotic men and women to a ”police action” that would insure that the fall of a small country in south-east Asia would not lead to a domino affect and communism would be stopped in its; tracks. Fifty-two thousands of these young men and women did not return. For those that came home the reunion with civilian life was less than special. When the military returned from two world wars and a Korean conflict a grateful America welcomed its heros home. No such thing took place when the troops returned from Viet Nam. Fortunately for the men and women returning to the deep south there was appreciation for the returning military but many parts of the country showed disdain and disapproval and in some cases physical abuse. Finally Hollywood found a commercial value to an unpopular war and movies such as Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Rambo and others turned the once scorned American into an iconic hero. Then a true gratitude for the sacrifice of a generation of Americans was unveiled in Washington, DC. The Viet Nam memorial was unveiled and how appropriate that the winner of the contest to design the memorial is the daughter of Chinese immigrants that had escaped communism in the late 1940s.
Fifteen years after Saigon fell, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and threatened to control the majority of the world’s producible oil reserves. I remember sitting in the Abqaiq Saudi Arabia dining hall talking to a British friend, Ken Evans. The troops were pouring into Saudi Arabia and the world admired the leadership and professionalism of the American fighting man. Ken told me that after Viet Nam America needed a win. This bothered me and my response was quit sharp. Looking at this in retrospect Ken was correct. Desert Storm rebuilt world pride in a military that needed to have its’ true character realized. But the Mid-East conflict did not stop with Desert Storm. Operation Enduring Freedom followed and again the might of the American military brought peace to a troubled part of the world. Finally Iraqi Freedom sent America into Iraq and Saddam Hussein was deposed and democracy was born in a dictatorial country. America was proud of its troops and still today units are seen being cheered as they return to America from overseas deployment. Justifiably so and no one is jeered at or spit on. How proud I was when my own son returned from Iraq after entering Baghdad with the 2nd Calvary two weeks before the official end of the war.
A grateful America has and continues to welcome home the men and women that brought stability to a very important part of our globe; but something is missing. That something is a fitting memorial to the sacrifices of our troops; something to bring closure to many. The federal government has not authorized a monument to commemorate the mid-east conflict; but the private sector of America has.
In Illinois off I-80 in the town of Marseilles a memorial has been erected to the participants of the Mid-East conflict. Little press coverage has documented this memorial but word of mouth has turned this into a major celebration to America’s finest. In 2004 the monument was moved over 50 miles to its’ present location. An honor guard of twelve thousand motorcycles escorted the monument. Today over fifty thousand descend on Marseilles in June as dog tags are dispensed with the names of the recent fallen that died during the previous year. A reading of the names is presented to the crowd and the newest names of the fallen are then added to the growing list on the wall.
The federal government is now taking action to honor the men and women of the mid-east conflict. Senators Donnely, Granger and Boozman have introduced legislation to commemorate our troops and erect a national memorial in Washington, DC. This legislation that was introduced in May and will still take time to get it voted on, funded, designed and then constructed.
On a side note, two years ago we talked of the Syrian conflict at a time that less than 200 people had been killed. I noted that this could grow to a major conflict and America was missing on a great opportunity to stabilize the situation with diplomatic action. It didn’t happen and there are now over 19,000 dead, 1,700 are children under ten. To make matters worse, Syria has used gas to kill civilians and the president has declared that we will now take action. I don’t know the difference to killing a child by a bullet, a bomb or gas but this gas attack is the line that our state department as declared that we should actively become involved in the conflict. I only hope that the new memorial does not fill up with American names killed in Syria.
If you have a computer and would like to see the story of the mid-east memorial go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=WEPBQGu74oo&feature=player_embedded .
Happy belated Flag Day and Happy Birthday to the United States Army.

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