I turned eight years of age exactly forty years ago today. Like many other kids my age, I was enthralled and happy about our space program; how we were poised to begin the Apollo series of launches that would set man on the moon. It was an historic time.
During the afternoon on January 27, 1967, my mom and I were watching TV, when a "Special Report" interrupted the regular progamming to announce a tragic accident at Cape Kennedy. There was a fire in the capsule of Apollo 1, and first reports said the rocket may have blown up on the launch pad. Back in those days, news filtered down much more slowly than it does in today's world of instant messaging and the internet. There was a fire, but it was confined to the capsule, killing the three astronauts within seconds in the pure oxygen atmosphere.
We knew something terrible had happened; something that would change us in some small way forever. Three American astronauts died, the first ever in the United States. My family gave me a birthday party that evening, but it was overshadowed by a feeling of sadness and loss.
And then there was Vietnam.
At the time, our nation was involved in a terrible and costly war. The evening news showed our brave soldiers being killed every single day in a conflict that few people understood and even fewer supported. The public seemed to start to become used to the numbers of Americans listed dead every night.
There were antiwar demonstrations around that time, too. Thousands of Americans, young, old, draft-age kids, woman, children, basically a cross-section of the American people were opposed to the war. The antiwar movement had gained momentum, and wasn't going to go away.
Today, forty years later, we're in another unjust and unpopular war, orchestrated by men with no morals and no guiding principles except greed and hatred. Americans are still dying for a hopeless cause. Just today seven more American troops had their lives wasted in George Bush's war.
So today is another somewhat somber birthday for me. One more birthday that I'll remember for falling on a day during a war that makes no sense at all. One more birthday I'll remember for being a day when good Americans die.
But there is hope. Just today, thousands of concerned and honorable Americans stood together in the freezing air to demonstrate in support of ending our involvement in this war. Much like the 60's and early 70's, there are politicians in DC who insist to withdraw from our involvement in the war would surely lead to disaster.
Those politicians responsible for the war in Iraq obviously learned nothing from the lessons of Vietnam. We pulled out of Vietnam after a 13-year involvement, at the cost of over 50,000 American lives and countless billions of tax dollars, not to mention our nation's loss of prestige, and let the Vietnamese to sort out their own problems.
You know what? We're fine, they're fine. Certainly, they're doing better than they were with us involved there. And we started rebuilding our prestige in the world immediately after withdrawal. Nobody called us quitters or losers. They congratulated us for finally seeing the futility of occupying a nation that doesn't want to be occupied.
The angry, hate-filled men in DC who want us to stay in Iraq obviously learned nothing from our previous mistakes.
Something tells me they'll never learn anything.
“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”
- Winston Churchill