The Taste Of Freedom

Allen Hutchison, whose excellent Letters from Exile blog I happened on recently, heard an NPR broadcast that left him with a question and posted the following:

The Taste of Freedom

This morning I heard a story on NPR about the Zippo lighters that soldiers carried in Vietnam. I didn't know that many of the soldiers had sayings engraved on the lighters, but during the story the host read several of these engravings. There was one particular quote that really caught my attention:

For those who have fought for it, freedom has a taste the protected will never know.

This saying really got me thinking, wondering really, what those who fought for it taste when they consider our freedoms today. ...

I left the following comment to Allen's post:

The Taste Of Freedom - posted by Bill Faith - 8/9/2004 20:13:57

While I was taking a few minutes to decide how to respond to your post, I sat here looking at a 33-year-old Zippo (mine) with a map of Vietnam on one side and those words inscribe[d] on the other. My understanding is that they were first written by an unknown Marine during the siege of Khe Sanh. Since I can’t find any evidence that the writer ever came forward to claim his work, I’ve always assumed he was KIA. I’ve given up on finding words to explain what those words mean to those of us who’ve put in on the line for what we believed in. Explaining them to someone who hasn’t been in that situation is well beyond my humble linguistic abilities. In a current context, they mean I’ve earned the right to quote the V.P. when someone starts preaching the P.C. agenda to me, and to do everything in my power to see that a man I’ve hated with a passion for over 30 years (see my blog for some of the reasons) doesn’t win the election this fall. In a broader sense, I still have to admit that if you’d been there you’d already understand and since you haven’t you never will. I guess there’s some truth to that part about “… the protected will never know.”

Allen read my comment and posted the following:

Comment on The Taste of Freedom

It's rare that a comment on one of my entries merits a whole new post, but I just got a comment on The Taste of Freedom that I wanted to respond to.

First, I want to tell Bill Faith, that I very much appreciate his point of view, and want to thank him for posting a comment of more substance than most. Bill Says:

(an excerpt from my [Bill's] comment from above)

I'm happy to say that no, I've never been in the military, and I haven't been in the situation where I have had to hold a gun and make a decision to kill or be killed. I have a great deal of respect for those who choose to perform this service, but I'm glad that it hasn't been me.

What Bill seems to be saying though, is that because I haven't fought a war for my freedom, I can't truly appreciate it. He implies that because I haven't worn a uniform, I haven't earned the right to have an opinion about the state of affairs in our country today.

Well Bill, I respectfully disagree with you. I wholeheartedly believe in the dialog of our country. I believe that all are equal when it comes to the great debates of our time. Soldier or scholar, programmer or president; this equality is what you fought for. The freedom for me to write this article, and the freedom for me to post it under my real name. The freedom for me to publicly disagree with you.

Bill, I want to thank you for your service to our country. I also want to thank you for your comment, and I hope to see more in the future.

I read that and left another comment for Allen:

I don't think we disagree at all. - posted by Bill Faith - 8/10/2004 14:46:23

I don't think we disagree at all. I have someplace I have to be in a few minutes but I'll be back later to try to clarify what I mean.

So, now I guess I owe Allen a better explanation, but I'm still not sure I know what to say that won't just create more confusion. I'm thinking as I type -- Please bear with me. My brother "avoided Vietnam" by being born 32 months later than I was. Does that mean he isn't entitled to the same freedoms and liberties that I am, or that he shouldn't enjoy them just as much? No. Not just "No" but "Hell no." His son completed an Air Force ROTC program this spring and is now overseas. Do I want him to end up in combat "so he can understand" or "because it's only fair"? Again, "Hell no." I'll continue to hope and pray for his safety, as I do the safety of every American. I'm a middle-aged grandfather with some health issues; I left the Air Force after 4 years to get an education and look for a "good job," and I don't regret that decision. On the other hand, if I was young enough I'd gladly go back into the service today, because I know there's a job that needs to be done so we can all continue to enjoy the freedom and liberty we've become accustomed to. Allen, I never meant to imply that anyone who hasn't served in the military wasn't entitled to an opinion, or shouldn't enjoy all of the freedoms and liberties this great country provides. My "In a current context ..." example wasn't well thought out. Maybe I'm just a little testy these days, worried that too many people haven't been paying attention and that, as a result, someone with some major character flaws stands a dangerously good chance of being elected this fall. I still can't find a way to define the difference between how freedom tastes to me and how I think it tastes to you. Maybe there isn't a difference. I know freedom tastes different to me now than it did when I was 19, but I'm sure anyone my age could say that, and I don't know how it tastes to a middle-aged male with no military experience. I'm sorry I can't answer your question. Maybe what's more relevant in the times we live in is "Enjoy the taste of that freedom while you can, and don't ever give it up without a fight."


At 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, I think we are on the same page. I especially agree with your last statement. This was the first time I've seen anyone call me middle-aged though, I'm not even 30. Either way, I've really enjoyed this exchange, and thanks for the picture of your lighter.


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