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War Protestors
And the REAL Meaning Of Peace

Guest Commentary by 
Gary Beikirch
Medal of Honor Recipient, Vietnam
April 1, 2003


 

I have been asked quite often recently (and have asked myself as well) what do I think of the anti war protesters. Are they unpatriotic?

I am in no position to judge the hearts and motivations of those who are protesting the war; however I will tell you that there are those whose cries for peace are drowning out those of any protester. There are those whose actions for peace will have a much greater, and lasting impact for peace than the stopping of traffic, picketing of buildings, or carrying of signs throughout our city streets.

I am talking about the cries and actions of our men and women who are fighting, who are dying, who are missing in action, and who are being held as POW's in Iraq. To me their actions and their cries silence the cries of any demonstrator.

I believe the greatest advocates for peace, the loudest voices for peace have always been raised by the men and women who have had to fight for it. In Vietnam we had a saying:

"To really live you must almost die. To those who fight for it.. Life has a meaning the protected will never know"

To those who fight for it LIFE has a meaning the protected will never know. I believe that to those who fight for it PEACE has a meaning the protected will also never know.

Ask a protester, "What does peace mean to you?"

And then ask a Marine an airman, or a sailor "What does peace mean to you?" Ask a member of the 101st, or the 3rd Infantry Division, "What does peace mean to you?" and you will get a different answer.

Ask an Iraqi who has spent almost 20 years under the murderous oppression of Saddam Hussein...ask one who has witnessed the murder or rape of family members, "What does peace mean to you?" and you will get a different answer...

Yes, to those who fight for it LIFE and PEACE will have a different meaning that the protected will never know.

No one wants peace more than those who have to fight for it. No one wants peace more than those who have to go to war. No one hates war more, nor knows the tragic devastations of war more than those who have to fight a war.

A 19th century English philosopher eloquently described the relationship between people and war.

"War is an ugly thing...but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight...nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety...is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." (John Stuart Mill)

I love this country and believe that there has not been another country in history that has enjoyed the blessings and the freedoms that we as Americans have had.

I believe that these gifts and theses blessings have been ours because we as a nation have been blessed by God. And I believe, also, that we as a nation have had these blessings because there is a spirit that is America. This is a spirit that has indwelt millions of men and women who throughout our history as a nation have believed that there is something more important than SELF...that there is something greater that is worth living for and worth dying for. It is a spirit that has truly made America the land of the free...but it is a spirit that has also taught us that freedom is not free. Freedom is a precious gift, and it is such a precious gift because it comes at such a great price...the willingness of men and women to fight for it and if necessary give up their life for it.

No...freedom is not free. Neither is peace. They both come at a tremendous cost and at such a great price. And our men and women, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are paying that price in Iraq today...so that others may be free and may have peace.

I would like to conclude my comments by reading an email that I recently sent to Bob Lonsberry, host of our local radio talk show.

Hi Bob..

If you can bear with me for a moment I would like to try to put into words some of the feelings that have been tying me up in knots for the past week. Already, the war in Iraq has burned certain images on my heart and mind...2 of the most unsettling have been 1) the anti war demonstrators, and then, 2) our young POW's...both of these images have created in me a mixed bag of anger, disgust, and a tremendous need to want to hurt somebody. I wish there were some way that I could convey to these demonstrators the damage that they are inflicting on our troops. These ramblings are an attempt to fulfill that wish...they are a result of my recollections of what it was like for me to watch Woodstock, Kent State, and numerous other events covered by the media from the jungles of Vietnam.

War is a terrible thing that exposes to man like nothing else the inhumanity that is in man. In war I saw things I will never forget. In war I did things that will forever haunt me. In war everything...EVERYTHING...that I thought I believed in was tested and destroyed. War does that...it will test you at your core...it may devour you...and leave you an empty shell.

Where does a person in that state find comfort, strength, the will to go on? Some turn to God...some find the strength from the hate that war has created within them....some find the strength from the camaraderie and love of their fellow soldiers...some find the strength needed as they look home....

As those POW's facing the horrors of their war looked to find strength....I pray that they did not look home and see anti war demonstrators... I pray they look home and see those of us who are daily on our knees praying for their safety...I pray they see the homes, the vehicles, the buildings proudly displaying the Stars and Stripes...I pray that they see the young, the old, the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are standing with them...proud of them, thankful for them...waiting to welcome them home as heroes...I pray that they will look home and see...and hear all of us shouting with one voice...

"TO ALL OF YOU WHO ARE SERVING ALL OVER THE WORLD... PROTECTING FREEDOM ... WE PRAY THAT YOU HEAR OUR VOICE... 
WE LOVE YOU.... 
WE ARE SO GRATEFUL FOR YOUR SACRIFICE.... 
YOU MAKE US PROUD TO CALL OURSELVES AMERICANS!!!

MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL AND KEEP YOU SAFELY IN THE PALM OF HIS MIGHTY HAND.

Gary Beikirch

Webmaster Note:  Click HERE to Read Gary Beikirch's Medal of Honor Citation

 

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