Letters to the Editor - July 16

July 16, 2011

Let's encourage all veterans and apologize to Vietnam veterans while we can

To the editor:

Regarding the July 8, 2011, letter to the editor, "Pay attention to what matters," yes the writer is correct, it's hats off to the vets and those who presently serve in the armed forces.

However, folks in the all-voluntary military (after 1973) are there because they want to be. Perhaps they wanted a job with potential, an opportunity for further education, preparation for a civilian career, a desire to see the world, an alternative choice to jail time, a way to sidestep other personal difficulties, accolades, etc. These are all understandable reasons to join up.

More power to all of them, but let's be honest with ourselves and stop trying to sanctify anyone in uniform in an attempt to show how humble, good, pure and patriotic we are. Eighty percent of our service members never see combat. In an all-voluntary military, people join to serve their own futures, though in some cases they are willing to take the chance that they might die, because that's the deal they make with Uncle Sam for all the benefits they receive.

A lot of soldiers are patriotic as well, like many civilians are. Where would we be without the 18-wheeler drivers who risk life and limb to drunk/distracted/ignorant drivers? And how about the construction workers so high above, who continually risk falls to their death? What about the prison guards who risk lethal assault?

As a group, the soldiers to whom we are in the greatest debt, are those who served with honor after being drafted or who enlisted during times of conscription. We go overboard with bowing down to active military and recent vets, because we are still trying to pay an unpayable debt to the Vietnam vets who we sent to war and then condemned for doing what we asked, when they finally came home. At best we ignored them, but many threw bottles, stones, even spit in their faces and yelled "baby killer." While they were trying to deal with the horrors of war, we betrayed them. Let us stop trying to sanctify military people, but encourage them all and make an extra effort to apologize to Vietnam vets while we still have a chance.

Anne P. Wright

Hagerstown and Williamsport should promote their Civil War heritage

To the editor:

As a longtime Civil War historian by avocation, I was thrilled to see Hagerstown and Williamsport recognize their important roles in the Gettysburg Campaign.

The battle of Antietam, as the single bloodiest day of that war, often overshadows the area's role in the Gettysburg Campaign.

Last week's premier of the film "Battle of Hagerstown" and the "Retreat through Williamsport" events highlighted those roles. As many local citizens by now know, "Pickett's Charge" was not the end of the campaign. Lee's army left Gettysburg, the wounded first and then the rest of his Army of Northern Virginia. Because the Potomac River was flooded and the single pontoon bridge was destroyed, Lee's army built fortifications and waited for the Army of the Potomac under Meade to attack.

Though prodded to action by Abraham Lincoln, Meade waited until it was too late to attack. Lee's army crossed into Virginia (now West Virginia) at Williamsport and Falling Waters on July 13 and 14, 1863. Lincoln believed that a blow to Lee could have brought an end to the war. Historians still argue about this point. I can only hope that Hagerstown and Williamsport continue to actively promote their Civil War history. Perhaps it will serve to fill some of the empty store fronts with new restaurants, antique shops, book stores and museums similar to Gettysburg and Frederick.

George F. Franks III

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