There are moments when I have to really try to set aside everything I know and everything I believe to truly understand the significance of a life. For the last few hours I've been wondering a lot about men, who in trying times, are not a success, but neither a failure.
General William Westmoreland died today at the age of 91.
Westmoreland was appointed the head of the military advisory mission to Vietnam in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, he served as Commander of MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) until 1968 commanding U.S. combat forces in Vietnam and later became chief of staff of the Army.
I wish for the sake of appearing less nerdy, I didn't understand so well the outcomes of the war America could not win. I wish the Vietnam War was more foreign to me and I understood less the costs and the casualities (both those who died in Vietnam, and those who lived to come home). But I understand fully that there are lessons and costs that we have only now started to see. There are men and women whose entire outlooks have changed, politicians who have changed ideologies, and kids, close to my own age, who will never serve their country for fear of what may become of them.
Westmoreland once said: "It's more accurate to say our country did not fulfill its commitment to South Vietnam. By virtue of Vietnam, the U.S. held the line for 10 years and stopped the dominoes from falling." Can we really say we stopped anything? Sure, the dominoes didn't fall, but neither did the Soviet Union for another 20 years. We didn't fulfill our commitment to South Vietnam, we left there turning our backs on everything we went in there believing.
So in his death I've come to realize that the significance of his life is this: He did what most men were unwilling to do. He served this country through thick and thin, torment and triumph, victory and defeat. And for that today this nation lost a patriot. Agree with Vietnam or not, Westmoreland's dedication in the face of defeat was admirable.
General William Westmoreland
1914 - 2005