There Is Nothing More Important Than 0aHonor
By Jim Cava
t r u t h o u t | 0aPerspective
Saturday 12 July 2003
The day was November 20, 1968 - OPERATION MEADE RIVER, South Viet 0aNam. In our military briefing the night before, we were told to expect a 0asignificant encounter with the enemy. In the early morning darkness my fellow 0aMarines and I grimly boarded our transport choppers and before long each chopper 0alifted off one by one en route to the LZ (landing zone). To this day the last 0athing I can remember before getting shot down by the enemy was the loud roar of 0athe chopper engines with the unmistakable sound of the chopper blades whirling 0around and round, the paradoxical scenic beauty of the peaceful countryside 0abelow, and my rosary in hand as I prayed.
As we approached the LZ the enemy opened fire. My chopper was the 0afirst to be hit. The pilot and co-pilot were killed instantly and the huge CH-46 0awent down, tumbled three times and exploded into a ball of fire. In a violently 0aforceful instant, my life was transformed into a state of non-existence. 0aUnconscious, I was pulled to safety from the burning chopper by a brave fellow 0aMarine, and for hours I laid helpless in a rice paddy before a Medevac was able 0ato assist and rescue. I was flown directly to U.S. Naval Support Activity (NSA), 0aDa Nang for emergency medical treatment. The heartfelt gratitude and admiration 0athat I hold for the skilled professionals of our Medical Service Corps in 0apreserving my life remains everlasting.
Several days later I was flown to U.S. Naval Hospital, Guam, 0awhere I awoke from my comatose state. As I opened my eyes, my existing thought 0awas one of thanksgiving; I was ALIVE. Insistently, I asked questions in a dire 0aattempt to find out the status of my men, and what had actually happened to me. 0aNo one really knew. How could they? We came from two different worlds. 0aPainstakingly I tried, but was never able to find out exactly what happened. 0aWhat I did find out was that my left arm was severed above the elbow, my legs 0awere crushed below the knees, my back was fractured in three places, I had 0areceived multiple scars, and I had contracted a staph infection that was causing 0ahideous pustules to break out all over my body.
I was cut down without reprisal and it infuriated me to no end. 0aThe most significant undertaking of my life had been cut short and taken away 0afrom me. My job, one that meant more to me than anything, was now over. 0aRealizing this, and that there was nothing I could do to alter the aimless 0acourse of the war evoked deep feelings of anger, frustration, and depression 0awithin me. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of Vietnam and how much I wanted to 0ago back. I felt so damn distressfully helpless and useless. Yet as I thought of 0athe immense human sacrifice given in suffering and in death by brave American 0amen and women, in upholding and defending the principles for which we stand, I 0awas filled with a profound sense of pride and consolation. I served my country 0awith honor and my reward was immensely gratifying. I was now among that elite 0aand distinguished group of patriotic Americans who served their country with 0ahonor.
It was that distinction of serving with honor that gave me a 0asource of inner strength to deal with the anguish and pain, then and always, 0abecause honor is what it's all about. There is nothing more important than honor - It is everything. Adversely, I thought of the deplorable lack of honor on the 0apart of our governmental and military leaders in successfully and expeditiously 0aending the war. A true miscarriage of trust was being perpetrated by the very 0aAmerican leadership I trusted in. My beloved and virtuous country was being 0adisgraced and humiliated by a disloyal, dishonorable, self-serving, 0aself-important and self-righteous group of power brokers and I was filled with a 0aprofound sense of disillusionment and betrayal - indignation and conflict. My 0acountry nor I would never be the same.
A week later, I was flown to Walson Army Hospital, Fort Dix, New 0aJersey. It was here that I received a most welcomed and compassionate visit from 0amy father, mother and sister. I was transported to U.S. Naval Hospital, 0aPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania where I spent four months recuperating, and 0aproficiently well trained in the use of an artificial arm. Finally, I was 0atransferred to Veterans Hospital, East Orange, New Jersey where I spent two long 0adepressing months and where I came close to a nervous breakdown but for the 0agrace of God, I maintained and carried on.
Back in Nam, my friend and fellow Marine, Denny Leary, had yet to 0afinish his tour of duty. In the meantime, Denny had written home to his family 0ain Collingswood, New Jersey and told them about me. Thoughtfully, he asked them 0ato visit me at the naval hospital in Philadelphia and to give me the royal 0atreatment. I will never be able to express in words how thankful I am for their 0akindness and generosity. I did not know Denny before Nam but here we were 0athousands of miles from home, brought together by chance serving our country in 0awhat we thought was a justified war. Only to discover that it was one of deceit 0aand dishonesty from the very start.
"The Incident" that brought America into the self-destructive and 0aregrettable Vietnam War was a pretext. In August of 1964 the American people and 0aCongress were led to believe that two U.S. destroyers, Maddox and Turner Joy, 0awithout provocation, were deliberately and aggressively attacked by North 0aVietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. This occurrence was a complete 0afabrication orchestrated by the egomaniacal President Johnson and his inner 0acircle of collaborators to achieve their ultimate political ambition: Wage 0aWar.
And thus the stage of a dishonorable leadership was set. And 0ahonorable America and her honorable soldiers were forced into a war that should 0ahave never been. Although it was for just a brief moment in our lives, Denny and 0aI developed a friendship. And it was something truly special and much 0aappreciated, having to put our lives on the line in a war with no clear cut nor 0aresolute direction. It was a good and reassuring feeling to know I had a friend 0aand fellow patriot in this foreign land, in this ill-conceived and outrageous 0awar, that I could believe and trust in. Our brotherhood brought a sense of 0astability to a no other than unstable situation. I would, and only could pray 0afor his safe return.
But again, fate would not comply. It was April 27, 1969. I was at 0athe Veterans Hospital when I received the shocking and distressing news. Denny 0ahad been killed. My good friend was dead. His precious life, one more precious 0alife - wasted. I was numb. I felt as if life itself had been drained from me. I 0athought of the possibility that I could have saved Denny's life. I was so damn 0ahelpless. There were so many, too many good Americans suffering and dying. There 0awere so many, too many loving American hearts broken and wrenched with pain. 0aWhen will it/Will it ever end?
Again - A fabrication orchestrated by the egomaniacal President 0aand his inner circle of collaborators to achieve their political ambition: Wage 0aWar.
Again - A deplorable lack of honor on the part of our 0agovernmental leaders.
Again - The stage of a dishonorable leadership is set.
Again - A miscarriage of trust perpetrated by the very American 0aleadership we trust in.
Again - Honorable America and her Honorable Soldiers are forced 0ainto a war that should have never been.
Again - The suffering and death of our Honorable and Brave 0aPatriotic Americans is looked upon as expedient and expendable in the eyes of 0athe incompetent and morally deficient powermongers in control.
Again - Our beloved and virtuous country disgraced and humiliated 0aby a disloyal, dishonorable, self-serving, self-important and self-righteous 0agroup of power brokers.
Again - Our great American heritage has been desecrated.
Again - Our American Spirit has been devitalized and 0ademoralized.
Again - Amid the leadership of our great country, there's not one 0aAmerican with the strength of character to stand up, formidably and 0auncompromisingly, in defense of America's honor and demand an end be put to the 0asacrificial human offerings of so many good Americans.
Again - What we thought was a justified war was one of deceit and 0adishonesty from the very start.
Again - Lies, lies, lies.
Again - The purest and truest paradox: America is honorable but 0aAmerica's leadership is not.
Again - I am filled with a profound sense of disillusionment and 0abetrayal, despair and degradation, indignation and conflict, infuriation and 0aabhorrence. When will it end/Will it ever end?