Throughout the history of our great nation, we have learned a lot through our wars. The Revolution, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War showed us what we can do when we are united. A person didn’t have to go to war, to be a part of the war effort. The people that stayed home, either for medical reasons or for personal reasons, contributed to the war effort by the work they did. They were indeed, a valuable part of that effort.
On the other side of the coin, we can look at the Civil War where families fought against each other. And the Vietnam War, where a nation fought against itself. We really don’t have to imagine the bitter feelings that were present when the Civil War ended – if you can remember the Vietnam War. Thirty plus years later and we’re still healing from that one.
Protesters fought their own political war at the cost of the Vietnam veteran. Today, these protesters live with a sense of shame and guilt for their actions. They’ve come to realize that the Vietnam veteran was a human being, with hopes and dreams, just like theirs. An old saying about being “better late then never” holds true for our now appreciative feelings for these veterans. Think about it, to risk your life, to help a nation strive for democracy, while getting little support at home. Imagine how hard that had to be.
The one thing, we as a nation, should have learned from the Vietnam War, was to always support our troops. We still have a right to protest these wars. It’s called elections. If you disagree with the way a war is going or what is being done then vote. But out of respect, for our soldiers and our freedoms, the only protest we should be involved in is when they don’t get our support.
On September 11th, 2001, we were no longer Hispanic, African American, or White, we were Americans. We were no longer Jews, Christians, or Muslims, we were Americans. We were no longer living in red states and blue states, we were united! What are we today?
I recently received an e-mail from a dear friend – Howard Bartholf. Howard comes from a military family, himself a Vietnam veteran. This month he has the distinct honor of presenting the wreath at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. In Howard’s own words, “it is the highlight of his career.” A military historian, Howard has earned the right to be proud of his own family’s history to insure our freedom.
So imagine how Howard felt when he went to a “Rally for the Troops,” in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia – and only 200 people showed up. Richmond is the home of nearly 200,000 people. Patrick Henry’s speech that gave us “Give me liberty, or give me death” was said in Richmond. It is roughly 100 miles from the Pentagon and I’m sure it felt a lot closer then that five years ago. 200 people! If only 1% of the population showed up there would have been 2,000 people in attendance.
This is only part of the story. To me, the truly sad part would take place shortly after the event and the local newspaper would be a major player in this tragedy. The Richmond Times-Dispatch did an article of praise for the event and the day’s activities. No where in the article was there any mention of the low turnout. Howard Bartholf felt a little betrayed, first by the lack of support shown by the city of Richmond and then by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in its “non-coverage” of the low turnout. To voice his disappointment with that day’s event, Howard wrote a letter to the editor. In his e-mail Howard wrote, “Recently Jan and I attended a ‘Rally for the Troops’ here in Richmond. We were pretty disappointed in the turnout which prompted my letter to the Editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This letter was written the day after the article about the rally appeared in the paper. Attached is a copy of my letter, and just how my letter appeared in the paper after they edited it. Don't get me wrong, I am both happy and honored that they published it and gave me ‘Correspondent of the Day’ status. I send this to you to show that maybe, just maybe, we do not have a total, unfettered and uncensored freedom of the press. I find it kind of amusing that they could edit my letter as they did, but could not spell the word "Support" correctly in the heading they used.”
Below is Howard’s Bartholf’s letter to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in its entirety. The parts that are in bold print are the parts the newspaper decided to leave out of the paper. The title of the editorial “Does Richmond Suport the Troops?” was exactly how it appeared in the paper.
Does Richmond Suport the Troops?
I felt compelled to write regarding the article that appeared in the July 16th edition (200 attend city rally for troops.)
My wife and I attended the rally at the Virginia War Memorial this past Saturday and we were both shocked and disappointed by the lack of citizens that turned out for this very inspiring and patriotic program. We have two questions for our fellow Richmond area residents. Those questions are, where were you Richmond, and do we, or do we not support our troops? As the parents of an army helicopter pilot, soon to be deployed to Iraq with the First Cavalry Division, we are not sure.
A quick look at the crowd in attendance that day, showed that the majority were veterans of the “Greatest Generation” still proud to stand up for our country, along with active duty and reserve military personnel and a sprinkling of Korean and Vietnam War veterans and their families. Instead of two hundred people attending, there should have been ten times that number. There weren’t even any anti-war protesters there and very few of the generation who has members fighting this war.
What is wrong with us? Are we so unconnected and comfortable in our own safe little world here in Richmond that we cannot sacrifice an hour or two to show our support for those who put their very lives on the line to protect us? Is this how Richmond’s citizens supported our soldiers, sailors, aviators and marines during World War One and World War Two? I think not. Our nation and our state, has already been attacked once on 9/11. Do we need terrorist hijackers to crash a plane into Mr. Jefferson’s Virginia State Capitol building to wake us up to the true dangers that face us?
General George Patton once said, “Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow, and the man who leads, that gains the victory.” Our troops deserve the knowledge that we wholeheartedly support them when they are in harms way.
I wanted to send my son a copy of the program from this event along with a copy of the newspaper article that appeared the next day. I think I will just send the program as the article and the poor turnout, may be just to demoralizing to him and his fellow soldiers.
The next time we have a “Support the Troops Rally,” let’s at least get out of bed Richmond and show up. If we don’t shame on us!
Howard Bartholf, Richmond
I understand that a newspaper needs to edit some articles for space reasons. I also understand that people buying the newspaper live in the Richmond area and I’m sure the newspaper doesn’t want to upset the apple cart. But I don’t understand why a “professional newspaper” can’t show some respect for our soldiers, by at least questioning why the turnout was so small, and why they can’t even take the time to show their true support for the parents of one of these soldiers. To not put in print the last two paragraphs of Howard’s letter is a slap in the face of every parent whose children put themselves in harm’s way – for us.
Tonight, I e-mailed the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “To whom it may concern. Your recent coverage about the “Rally for the Troops” was a slap in the face to our fighting men and women across our great country. Someone, somewhere should have questioned why the turnout was so low - .1% of the communities population. But the real disgrace was the editing of Howard Bartholf’s letter to the editor (7/30), following this event. Howard is a proud military man, whose family history is showered with heroes. His letter deserved to be shown in its entirety. And for the record, support, means just that. If we are lazy enough to not take the time to even spell the word correctly – can we honestly believe that this newspaper supports its troops?”
Below is the link for the Richmond Times-Dispatch contact page. Let’s flood its e-mail with words about supporting our troops and their duty to help us to continue to keep our soldiers a top priority! Let’s start with this newspaper and see where we can go. This is a protest – one which we should all be involved in. Support our troops… and their families.