Thank you everyone for being here today, this beautiful day, this first day of spring.
America, look at us. Look at all of us. Your being here today is a courageous gift to every American soldier, to every Iraqi child, whose mothers and fathers have the same dreams and passionate yearnings for their children as we have for all our children in this country.
America, do not tell us we are not patriotic.
America, do not tell us we do not care.
It is because we do care so deeply for the future of our world, for all of the children all over the world, that we are here today.
Veterans often feel a little crazy, clinging to the truths of their war experience of so many years ago. We have a very special responsibility to tell others what we learned in war, and what we saw there. We are a part of the conscience of this country, and we must continue to tell America that war is wrong.
What I learned in Viet Nam was that life was so painfully real. It seemed so plain and simple, the suffering of others was real, and the maimed remain maimed, and the dead forever dead. And I learned that war, no matter how necessary or justified by our government, is immoral. And I learned that our terrible and powerful American wisdom is engraved over 58,000 times on the face of the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, and now on the 576 crosses here before you today.
I wonder today still if the President and Congress and the American people, if they could have been with me the night a landing zone was overrun, and I carefully and sadly and incredibly painfully put one young son in a body bag to be sent home to America… I wonder if they could have touched their young hands and stroked their young faces and said goodbye as I did… If they would have ever have allowed this to happen again. And I wonder if they had to send their young sons and daughters first, if there ever would have been this war.
America, I was your daughter…
I was the girl next door.
Remember when I was 13, America, and rode on top of the fire engine in the Memorial Day parade? I'd won an essay contest on what it meant to be a proud American.
And it was always me, America, the cheerleader, the Girl Scout, who marched in front of the high school band . . . carrying our flag . . . the tallest . . . the proudest . . .
And remember, America, you gave me the Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen Award for patriotism, and I was only sixteen.
And then you sent me to war, America, along with thousands of other men and women who loved you.
It's Memorial Day, America. Do you hear the flags snapping in the wind? There's a big sale at Macy's, and there's a big parade in Washington for the veterans.
But it's not the American flag or the sound of drums I hear - I hear a helicopter coming in - I smell the burning of human flesh. It's Thomas, America, the young Black kid from Atlanta, my patient, burned by an exploding gas tank. I remember how his courage kept him alive that day, America, and I clung to his only finger and whispered over and over again how proud you were of him, America - and he died.
And Pham. He was only eight, America, and you sprayed him with napalm and his skin fell off in my hands and he screamed as I tried to comfort him.
And America, what did you do with Robbie, the young kid I sat next to on the plane to Viet Nam? His friends told me a piece of shrapnel ripped through his young heart - he was only seventeen - it was his first time away from home. What did you tell his mother and father, America?
Hold us America . . .
Hold all your children America. Allen will never hold any- one again. He left both his arms and legs back there. He left them for you, America.
America, you never told me that I'd have to put so many of your sons, the boys next door, in body bags.
You never told me . . .
America, we have sent another generation of children to see life through an M-16 and death through the darkness of a body bag.
America, my wish today, this first day of spring, is for a seed to be planted in every child's heart, a seed that produces courage to walk unarmed and refuse to hate and kill…
…A seed that will flower and bloom as wars and guns and hatred are buried forever.
Peggy Tuxen-Akers (email@example.com)
Viet Nam 1970-1971