I can’t help but think of Forrest Gump every time I think about Vietnam. Although Forrest makes his tour in Vietnam comical and an almost enjoyable experience, the reality is that it was one hell of a terrible time for a lot of young men (and women) that were deployed. Here is one young man’s story of an experience in Vietnam:
Army Medic George Banda and his battalion found themselves in a firefight with the Vietcong. Suffering a shot to the neck and a severed artery, Banda rushed to save his fellow soldiers but his help was too late for many of them. Bleeding profusely, Banda ran down a hill to help one of his buddies, Ed, who was also from Milwaukee. Ed kept telling Banda that he didn’t want him to go as he was being rescued by a chopper, but Banda knew he had to tend to other soldiers. Banda–brave yet scared, guilt-ridden yet thankful–survived, unlike the other 32 men in his battalion. Banda still visits Ed at the Milwaukee cemetery, and is still always hesitant to leave his side.
Reading stories like this one always makes me a little sad, a littler guilty, and a little unsure about my own life. These men were not much older at the time of their deployments than I am now; however, instead of being stressed out about college apps and marching band competitions and homework, they were worrying about surviving the next hour of their tour. That’s pretty hard to fathom. Being interested in the medical field myself, I’ve contemplated joining the US Navy in order to pay for medical school and to serve my country, but it’s hard to lean towards that idea when war stories like this one become a reality playing over and over again in my head. The blood, the gore, the emotional torrent–it’s all a bit intimidating. Of course, the military is much more modern today and being a female in the Navy, I wouldn’t normally see combat like this but the many other negative effects of war would still run rampant in my life.
On the other hand, I feel like I owe some military service as a form of gratitude for the many men like Banda and his battalion that didn’t have a choice of whether they wanted to serve or not. War is tough, but as I’ve been thinking for years, I’d rather it be me than some crazy or uncommitted person partly in charge of protecting the country. So maybe I will join the military, but maybe I won’t. It’s a complicated topic but I’m hopeful that I can provide at least a small sense of justice to all the men that either lost their lives or minds during our nation’s recent wars.