The Wait of War

It is known by many names. 

Some call it the Second Indochina War. Some call it the Resistance War. Some call it the American War.

Honoring our finest: Veteran stories, war artifacts a reminder of sacrifices

coverVeterans Day is a time set aside each year to honor the people who have put their lives on the line to protect the freedom of others. Each veteran, whether they served in World War II or Iraq, have a different story to tell. This year, a female veteran and one Cherokee tribal elder share their experiences of serving in WWII while leaders of veteran organizations discuss the challenges of staying relevant to younger generations of service men and women. 

Veterans’ groups struggle for relevancy with younger generation of servicemen

fr veteransWhen Bobby Rathbone came home from Vietnam over 40 years ago, joining a veterans group was the last thing on his mind. Drafted into war, fighting in Vietnam was hardly something to celebrate or wear on his sleeve.

‘Beloved’ Cherokee storyteller shares WWII experiences

fr wolfeJerry Wolfe is a storyteller. Whether he’s telling a story of his people at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian or retelling his years spent in the U.S. Navy, the 91-year-old remembers every detail.

More than just a flag: A female WWII vet reflects on the war and its impact on her family

fr mashburnWhen 91-year-old Gertrude Mashburn tells strangers she’s a World War II veteran — a topic she usually brings up early in a conversation — she’s often met with skepticism. 

If war is not the answer, then what is?

op frBy Doug Wingeier • Columnist

A group calling ourselves “Neighbors for Peace” have been holding a peace vigil in front of the Haywood County Courthouse nearly every Wednesday — rain or shine — since before the start of “Shock and Awe” in March 2003. At first we were met with some hostility by passersby who supported the Iraq War and thought that being for peace was unpatriotic. But gradually, over the 11 years since then, we have received more and more support and affirmation — in the form of waves, honks, V for victory signs, thank yous and some who stop to converse and even join us.

We still get the occasional finger, catcall, obscenity or argument, however. And recently a person walked up to us and angrily shouted several times in our faces, “You are offensive” — giving us no opportunity to respond. Some who stop are veterans home from Iraq or Afghanistan, and most of these — having personally experienced the horror and insanity of war — voice agreement with us.

War-weary Americans don’t want to get involved in Syria

op frBy Doug Wingeier • Guest Columnist

It doesn’t seem to matter which political party a president belongs to: if he wants to go to war he’ll find a way, regardless of what the American people may want. We are tired of war — civilian and military deaths, billions drained away from domestic needs, lives disrupted, families separated, futures ruined. 

One president falsely claimed weapons of mass destruction. Now another wishes to rain death on Syrians in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons. Fortunately, though, this time he has agreed to seek Congressional approval. So we must urge our representatives not to grant it. Here are some reasons we can use to persuade them to refrain from military action:

National Guard send off one of many seen in WNC during decade-long conflict

fr nationalguardAs Lieutenant James Rossi took the stage in his fatigues, a toddler’s voice cut across the auditorium, breaking the otherwise formal and borderline somber ceremony marking the imminent deployment of local National Guard troops to Afghanistan.

An insightful look at guerilla warfare

bookSince the Second World War, Americans have lived by the old dictum that only the dead have seen the end of war. For almost 70 years we have served as the world’s policeman, opposing the Soviet Union in a cold war, communism in Korea and Vietnam in hot wars, and a variety of fanatics, terrorists, and dictators in wars hot and cold. We fought to a stalemate in Korea, lost in Vietnam, won the Cold War, and won — at least militarily — the battles of the Middle East. Our armed services remain the most battle-tested in the world, and we spend far more on these services than any other country. (A good part of this spending, incidentally, is for veterans’ entitlements). 

A reminder of the inhumanity that is war

It was pouring last Wednesday as I drove home, the cold rain  painting the winter landscape a dull grey. Standing on the sidewalk outside the Haywood County Courthouse was a single peace protester, his raincoat losing the battle against the forces of nature. The lone sentinel was from a group that has stood watch each Wednesday at the courthouse for years, I believe since a short time after the Iraq invasion in March 2003. I think on this day it was Doug Wingeier, a peace activist who has penned letters and guest columns in this paper and others, a man who has traveled the world to promote peace and understanding, a person whom I’ve admired from afar for years.

I usually honk in solidarity with the protesters. It would be incorrect to label myself a pacifist, but I certainly identify with those who advocate an end to war and the settling of political divisions that send too many people to early graves from bombs, bullets, starvation or sickness. I also tap on my horn as a symbol of support for these individuals themselves, who with their stoic, multi-year vigil are a living example of standing up for one’s ideals.

On this day, however, I almost missed Doug and therefore did not get to acknowledge his efforts. I also didn’t have time to read his sign, so I don’t know what it may have said. I could see the magic marker running down the cardboard, though, reminding me of a mother’s tear-streaked eye make-up.

It was the news on the radio that had my attention. U.S. Marines had been videotaped pissing on the bodies of insurgents they (presumably) had killed in Afghanistan. The news had just broke, so condemnation was pouring in from U.S. government and foreign leaders. Inhumane. Disgraceful. Deplorable. I had watched the video prior to leaving the office, and it was painful to watch the smirking young soldiers do the deed.

I won’t talk about how idiotic these soldiers were for taking part in this episode and then for letting it be filmed. They deserve to be reprimanded, perhaps court-martialed. We can rest assured the military will take stern measures.

Most Americans know nothing of war, don’t even know what it’s like as civilians to make sacrifices for a war effort. The latter is, in its own way, shameful. We can read books and watch video footage and get the idea, but that’s not real. When it’s your life or the guy in the bunker across the valley, or when a friend is in mortal danger, things happen.  You act, and what you do may not leave a sense of pride, but you just do it. I grew up in a military town as Vietnam was ending, and I had many very good friends with fathers who were just never right after that war. They had lost something, and many of those men are reaching the end of their lives still trying to get it back.

Wars are promulgated by leaders in nice suits sitting in soft chairs in Kabul and Washington, by warlords in the Middle East fighting for a way of life in a place where most have never experienced what Americans know as freedom. They are the ones who put those young Marines out in the desert where all they can do is try to survive and find their way home, where mistakes will be made, and we would do well to remember that before throwing out blanket condemnations.

War is inhumane, disgraceful, deplorable. Those peace activists standing out there in front of the Haywood County Courthouse every Wednesday trying to get our politicians to end these wars have been trying to tell us that for all these years.  

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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