Thursday, April 15, 2010

Some of my best friends are veterans


I'm an Army veteran of the Vietnam War. I was drafted. I didn't want to join. I did not want to go to Vietnam or any other battleground.

But I did go. It was a very valuable experience, but it wasn't much fun. If I had it to do all over? They still would have had to come and get me.

There were all kinds of people in the Army. Close friends, acquaintances, others that we couldn't stand. The causes of the war were hardly mentioned. The simple truth was that we were all in the same boat; we had a common enemy. The causes of the Vietnam War were debatable then, and they're debatable now. The Veteran's duty is to do and die.


Military men and women deserve our support. We can argue and discuss the causes, but we must be true to the people who fight the battles and wars.  They can be likened to the person who pulled the switch or injected the lethal dose in capital punishment. 


The governor of Virginia had good reason to not mention any causes of the War Between the States when he approved that April be a month to recognize Confederate heritage.  The American Confederate Soldier deserves honoring as much as the American Union Soldier.  

We can talk for days about all that went into American history leading up to the All American War. One issue was the un-tested right for a state to secede voluntarily just as it had joined voluntarily.  Another was the changing of conditions over a four score and seven year period. The north became more industrial, as the south became more agricultural. Blame a lot on Ely Whitney. Except for that blamed cotton gin, the south would have done away with slavery because it was unaffordable without cotton. 


Slavery is awful. It's abominable. Suppression of freedom is always wrong.

We are right to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for his peaceful efforts in the transition of America in recognizing civil rights and justice for all. We are right to observe February as Black History Month.

But we also are right to celebrate and honor The Veteran, The American Veteran. We honor the blue, the gray, and all the colors worn by The American Veteran. 


I love Old Glory. But I wish the United States had a peace flag separate from the battle flag. Old Glory was a battle flag, and we still fly under all situations. 

I wish that there was an American battle flag, different from Old Glory, to add clarity about when we are at war. Raise it when the war begins and take it down when the war ends.

I can understand that the Sons of Confederate Veterans want to use the flag their ancestors fought under, and not the official Confederate States national flag.

But I also can understand the hatred and fear attached to our 
St. Andrews cross. 

To many of us the flag is a loved and honored part of our heritage. But we have seen that flag so abused by its use by Nazis and racists.

St. Andrews Cross - Scottish Flag


Paul taught in his first letter to the Corinthians that we should not use symbols that may cause a brother to offend. He taught  us to give up something for righteousness sake and to do so for the salvation of a brother. I believe that Paul would urge us to put our beloved battle flag into the historical museum and the history libraries and schools. I believe that Paul would ask us to give up a lot for the sake of The Kingdom. Paul is not here.

Search your heart. Ask Jesus what He would do. 


Spectator sports are more fun than history. Football rivalries are fun. Georgia vs Tech, Alabama vs Auburn. We poke fun, cheer, and sometimes cross the line. We love childish frivolity, but there is a time to set aside rivalries and get on with the world's business. We can never allow our fun turn to hatred or jealousy.

We may not like another person's belief, opinion, and attitude, but we must always be prepared to defend that right because we insist on such rights for ourselves.

We have lots of "room" for fun, work, study, appreciation. When Jesus says for us to love one another, part of it is appreciating each other and appreciating each other's differences.

I can understand the Governor of Virginia allowing the issue of slavery be included in the month's celebration. I believe it was a gesture to promote peace.


The SCV is not perfect and some say it is infiltrated with white supremacists and those who would do violence. Well respected members recognize the "scum" in the ranks. If we don't have people preserving history in writing, art, proclamation, and re-enactment, what will happen to history?

What will happen if the celebration of Black History goes away?

"You can't judge a book by looking at its cover." But when a cover gets smeared, defaced, crushed, and torn, and doesn't do its intended job anymore, wouldn't it be wise to save the book and glue a pretty new cover on it? The new cover might become more useful than the old.


I would ask the historians, lovers of history, and the media to search and proclaim the whole truth.  The study of slavery would include: the long record of slavery from the annals of recorded time; the history of slavery in the north and the south leading up to the American War; the history of slavery after the war in the north with its sweatshops and working children, in the south with the growing plantation system.  

The plantation system made slaves of black and white people, as it turned poor farmers into destitute share croppers.  The local government aided the system by selling a poor farmer's land. The banks foreclosed on property.  In some counties, the plantation owners, bankers, and county political leaders were one and the same. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. 


Another war took young men and women, black and white, to places and responsibilities they never would have known otherwise. They accepted the burden, fought and some died. They brought home a new birth of freedom, a renewed right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. We call them the Great Generation. They were The American Veteran with all who stood by them and supported them.  May they always be celebrated as long as our nation stands.


We Americans are rich in diversity. Contributions by each individual have brought us to this point. The Great American War decided our future. As Lincoln said "we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure... those who here gave their lives that that nation might live... we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

More Confederate Soldiers died at Gettysburg, but Lincoln made no distinction. He spoke of The American Veteran, blue and gray.

The first national flag of the Confederate States of America
called "The Stars and Bars"

Heritage and history is about people. It should be celebrated, always with a concern for one another. 
Share our many varieties of American Culture.

William A. Ricks

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