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as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

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Monday, August 11, 2014

War: A Waste of Youth

Byron Edgington - Huey

by Byron Edgington

The picture was taken at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, in late January 1970.

The child in the photo is me. 

Two weeks after this picture was taken, I graduated from flight school. 

Five weeks later, I arrived in Vietnam at the 90th repo depot in Long Binh.

Did we send kids like this off to war in South Asia? You bet we did, and by the dozens. 

In WW-2, the average age of GIs was twenty-six.  In Vietnam it was nineteen. I was twenty in this photo, barely shaving, less than two years out of High School, and still a virgin, if you can believe it. 

No political rant about our adventure in Vietnam, but the war did take a lot of very young lives, on both sides. 

I'm not saying that having older, more experienced troops would have given this country more hesitation to intervene in Vietnam, or produced a better outcome there. I believe we entered that little country with honorable motives, generally, and at first. 

Over time, the reality of the war became apparent to many of us. We had become mired in what was at its base a nationalistic, civil war, and then as a nation, we began to mature pretty quickly.
I have another photo taken at LAX when I returned home from Vietnam. That shot is very different. I had grown up a lot by the time that photo was taken. In it, I'm looking off-camera, as if wary even of the simple lens aimed at me from only four feet away. 

My eyes are slits, not from the glaring sun of Southern California, but from the anxiety I exuded after leaving Vietnam three days before. 

In that shot, my chest is festooned with medals, decorations garnered from flying 1,200 hours in combat, none of which medals could possibly signify what those hours actually represented.
As Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 
Here's hoping we always remember the kids we're about to ship off to war, and maybe we can allow them to grow a bit first ...

Byron Edgington
The SkyWriter

Other Articles by Byron Edgington:

The Right Seat is the Wrong Seat
Jim, Frank, and The Snake
Smokey, The Alcoholic Pup
Book: "The Sky Behind Me: A Memoir of Flying & Life" 

Byron's Website

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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1 comment:

  1. WAR always is at the expense of youth. WWII was no different in that there were MORE men and women involved in it so of course the numbers related to age would be higher.

    Youth is always sacrificed during war.

    Believe me - in Nam there were a lot of Youths sacrificed in the South especially among the Viet Cong. Having been witness to the aftermath of a number of battlefield actions - a large number of the "VC" were teens and a number as well PRE-TEEN!

    Approximately 16 million men and women served in the US Military during WW 2.
    11 million.

    9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era (5 August 1965-7 May 1975)
    8,744,000 personnel were on active duty during the war (5 August 1964-28
    March 1973)
    3,403,100 (including 514,300 offshore) personnel served in the SE Asia
    Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand and sailors
    in adjacent South China Sea waters).
    2,594,000 personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam
    ( I January 1965 - 28 March 1973)
    Another 50,000 men served in Vietnam between 1960 and 1964
    Of the 2.6 million, between 1 and 1.6 million (40-60%) either fought in
    combat, provided close combat support or were at least fairly regularly
    exposed to enemy attack.
    7,484 women served in Vietnam, of whom 6,250 or 83.5% were nurses.
    Peak troop strength in Vietnam was 543,482, on 30 April 1969.



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