Loving our Veterans
By Don Meinshausen
Despite the holidays of Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day there is little appreciation for veterans. Oh there may be a few generals and politicians pontificating and maybe a parade and a concert but that’s usually seen as patriotic blather for the media and for the declining numbers that remember the conflict or care. Very few show up. Most go to the beach or stay home.
Of course there is not much for the guys who really paid a big price in a war that are still with us. The amputee, the horribly disfigured, with scarred psyches to match and those who will be in and out of hospitals for the rest of their lives. And then there are those who were so heavily traumatized that they cannot handle the crowds, the rhetoric and the fireworks will not be brought out or would come out for these events. It would be too upsetting for all concerned.
Now I am not a veteran and I am fortunate enough not to have anyone close to me who was so damaged. Regardless of what you think of war or a particular conflict you can’t help but sympathize with their situation. I have thought it would be an interesting experiment to survey those who really suffered in Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq. I’m not talking about the desk jockeys, short timers or those who saw little action even though they might have been willing to be in harm’s way. Just to go to the ones who have really suffered and spent some time there and ask “Was it worth it?” Maybe they are just as divided as all Americans are years after the conflict. It stands to reason that they would have more wisdom on such conflicts than the pundits, armchair generals and chicken hawks that decide where the next war should be. I think that our wounded vets would be happy to give advice after all that time lying in beds in VA hospitals thinking about their decisions. I think that all of us reading this, hawk and dove alike, would agree that the counsel of such men would be valuable about the worth of war.
Most of us men decided not go to war. Only a few avoided due to conscience. Some used the system of deferments to avoid something unpleasant. Others avoided because of fear. Some still agonize over that decision not to serve. While such a survey would be fascinating, I would not force these veterans through another painful reappraisal. But many of them who are psychologically fit though scarred, are just waiting to be asked. Maybe even men in the same unit who fought side by side and suffered the same wounds might have radically different ideas about their service.
There was a book called “The Warriors” that showed studies of veterans of different nations and conflicts who were interviewed about why they fought. The reasons for their participation were not bravery, patriotism, and hatred of the enemy, ideology or religious values. The primary reason was the bonding of the men who fought side by side and the honor shared between them.
This holds especially true for the terribly scarred, whether physically and emotionally, returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us not make the same mistake we did with the Vietnam veterans who were ignored. They had such high addiction and homeless problems that laws were passed banning discrimination based on service in Vietnam. The trauma veterans suffer is obvious even after decades have lapsed. It is so widespread that the military is considering asking the government to change the law to allow the use of psychedelics, like MDMA, to treat their veterans PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder.
In my middle class hometown of Nutley, New Jersey there was a man named Eddie who was a veteran of the First World War. He would walk the streets and sometimes started screaming. He was brought home from the war for being shell-shocked or PTSD. He still heard the shells explode almost fifty years after the war ended.
Do you remember the movie “Born on the Fourth of July”? A young marine shot and crippled in Vietnam returns home and travels with a friend to a town outside the US. The town is known among veterans for its brothels and bars. The women there are very sympathetic and very poor and not bad looking. The movie shows the town as a continuous party with too much drinking. But remember what they have been through. It seems to help but its not officially noted by the veteran’s groups or the VA.
This makes sense. The great sex destinations of the Pacific to this day are Bangkok and Pattaya in Thailand and Angeles in the Philippines. These sex tourist towns got their start courtesy of the US military during the 60’s and were regulated by them. During the Vietnam War R&R (Rest and Recreation) was called I&I (Intercourse and Intoxication) to the soldiers who went to Bangkok and Pattaya. Angeles served the Clark Air Force Base and a nearby naval base. In fact Angeles American Legion Post has a high membership because retirees can find a wife or young girlfriend there who actually wants a relationship. Veterans are very respected here.
Back to our disabled veterans who in their minds and remaining body parts are still manly studs and needing affection. Even with the sexual revolution of carefree contraception these guys find it next to impossible to get laid. No medal is going to make up for the loss of appearance and self-esteem of missing eyes, hearing, limbs, bodily functions, looks and peace of mind. Even if they can wheelchair out of a VA hospital, how can these guys go out to a local bar where they will be stared at?
There is also the movie “Coming Home” about a disabled Vietnam vet that does get an American woman to fall in love with him with no financial motive. The American woman happens to be Jane Fonda, and for the life of me I can’t understand why a woman who would go to bat (so to speak) for disabled Vietnam vets is so scorned by veteran groups.
There is no movie from a conservative point of view that shows a disabled Vietnam or Iraq war vet who finds love. Sexual or romantic fantasies via Hollywood would help a lot. These men still need sex. These men still need to be held and loved. The women who provide it whether out of money, personal need or financial support can show love and care as well as any nurse or wife. Some hookers even marry these guys.
Many women do this to support parents and their children. No woman should be forced to be a prostitute, but it can be an ennobling profession. To be able to combine passion and compassion and give it to guys who may be so traumatized that they cannot respond emotionally is practically sainthood in my opinion. This is the reason that there was in ancient society a tradition of sacred prostitution. Such acts of love and the teaching of love were considered homage to the Goddess.
I think of women who respond to soldier’s needs as Valkyrie. They were the Rhine Maidens of German Wagnerian folklore who picked up the dead heroes off the battlefield and carried them to Valhalla or paradise. Amazon Grace, how sweet the sound, to save a wretch like me.
The juxtaposition of sex and death is a powerful one and can be misused. The Valkyrie image was used to motivate women in Nazi Germany to drop Victorian mores and marriage requirements to help repopulate the Reich’s battle casualties in state sanctioned sexual celebration. This release from the strict sexual mores of Germany also was used to motivate potential soldiers as well. The progeny were to be raised by the state or state approved families
This was actually a way to destroy family structure as well as a way to enforce racism.
There is a different archetype of women in war that is emerging. There are now women soldiers dressed in khaki to help search and interrogate civilian women and some see actual combat. In Israel they do practically all the jobs that male soldiers do. The more safer, saner and more feminist version of the woman/warrior image is the fantasy/science fiction vixen in Heavy Metal or biker chick attired in studded black leather bikinis and a sword. Totally hot. Totally cool. Sexy, but not my cup of tea and not the model of compassion that might be appropriate here for those traumatized by war. Besides women are outnumbered by men in the military. Many of these guys can’t get this kind of action, so to poor countries they go.
In third world countries, twenty bucks for a sex act is more pay than a week’s work in a sweatshop of twelve-hour days. And you can’t work on your back in a factory or pulling a plow. Of course the guys are not always so bad and the girls are not always so good. But with a legal system of brothels men are protected against disease and theft. Women also have protection against violent and drunken men and predators.
According to a prostitution rights activist, based on the Green River killings and other reports there are several unknown serial killers who prey on prostitutes and hitchhikers in every American metropolitan area. When their activities are illegal and scorned by society, prostitutes are so afraid of the system that many don’t even report rapes, robberies or missing co-workers. The police would rather ignore, exploit or arrest them. In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico many mutilated bodies have been found and hundreds of women are missing.
In sex tourist areas even with a quasi-legal format, the hookers are more relaxed and friendly because they are safe from prisons, police rapes and psychotic customers. Word gets out about who is crazy, alcoholic, dishonest, etc., and these people don’t get hired or serviced as the case might be. Nicer people become popular and relationships sometimes form and the traditional heart of gold hooker becomes a reality. Extortionist pimping is rare.
Here even the most wretched have a chance for passion or even a relationship. The US military and the State Department is now under pressure by the so-called Christian Right to close this venue even in foreign countries for civilians, soldiers and veterans alike. We’ve heard it all before for decades. Prostitution denigrates marriage. It exploits women. It gives foreigners a bad image of America. Sleazy shock journalists, control freaks and moralizers ignore the underlying racism and fascism of attacking poor foreign women who want jobs and relationships with American men. Nobody asks the servicemen or veterans, who like the ladies’ attention, the ladies themselves or even their neighbors who value the tourist money it brings.
Do we care about our servicemen and veterans enough to listen to what they want? Let me put it this way. Why don’t all those nice church groups volunteer to give these poor disabled heroes charity sex or porn? It would be part of the great tradition of pubic support for American servicemen that goes back to World War 2.
There were women in America back then called Victory Girls or V Girls like the Valkyrie. They worked or hung out at USO canteens, dance halls and bars and offered something more sought for than a doughnut. They flouted the strict moral standards of the day by having sex without marriage with soldiers on their way to the front. In those days any woman who did not hold onto her virginity until marriage was considered a whore. No respectable man would marry her and could have the marriage annulled if she did not bleed on her wedding night. Why should our heroes have to die a virgin or rush into marriage? These men were risking their lives and honor and the women thought they had an obligation to do the same. (Venereal disease was such a risk that sometimes they were called VD girls.) . Considering that many soldiers dying young in combat would never have a chance at passion and that many women would not have a chance at marriage due to so many soldiers dying the answer would seem obvious today. But then was a different morality.
Still they helped the men the best way they knew to help their morale. Considering their reduced opportunities to find men during and after the war it was the logical marriage strategy since if the guy came back the relationship could re-ignite.
There are many statues of generals and rulers who start and run wars in our parks and military cemeteries. These types rarely see the blood and gore of war and they do profit by it. There are few statues of soldiers who suffer greatly and are poorly compensated for their pain. There are still fewer statues of nurses who had their hands full of traumatized, wounded and needy men.
Someday there will be a statue of those whose contribution has been ignored or covered in shame. They took care of our soldiers most deep, personal wants that no one in command would even acknowledge. There should be a statue or some recognition of the V-Girls and prostitutes. They have taken care of wounded, traumatized and lonely soldiers and veterans for ages uncounted.
But to get that statue a statute need to be repealed. Let’s legalize prostitution to help our soldiers and veterans. At least send some porn to your local VA hospital. You do care about veterans, don’t you?
Don Meinshausen is a founder of the libertarian movement in that he organized the draft card burning at the 1969 YAF convention, which is regarded in “Radicals for Capitalism” as the “founding of the modern libertarian movement.” He is also known for his connections with Robert Anton Wilson, Karl Hess and Timothy Leary and being a former political prisoner. He is looking for work in any part of the country.