Dying for Nothing
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Yesterday I attended a funeral for a friend’s mother at Arlington National Cemetery. During the service, my eyes focused on three nearby gravestones — a Lt. Colonel, a 1st Lieutenant, and a captain. The inscriptions on the gravestones stated that all three had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and that all three had died in 2011. I noticed that the captain died at the age of 30.
All I could think was: What a horrible waste of life. Three lives shortened, needlessly. All three, dying for nothing.
It was the captain’s gravestone that hit me the hardest. Inscribed near the bottom of that gravestone were three letters: “VMI.”
During my first year at VMI, I became accustomed to those times during evening meals when an upperclassman would take the microphone and make some sort of special announcement. I don’t recall exactly what he would say but whatever it was, everyone knew what it meant and a hush would immediately sweep across the mess hall. He would then announce something like, “Attention to orders. 10 December 1968. Lt. Smith, J.S., VMI class of 1966, killed in action this day, Republic of Vietnam.”
When I arrived at VMI in 1968, the Vietnam War was in full swing. I believed the government’s pronouncements and trusted the judgments of U.S. officials. I really believed that U.S. troops were fighting to protect our rights and freedoms here at home. I really believed that without the U.S. intervention in Vietnam, the dominoes would start falling and the communists would soon be taking over our nation.