Monday, December 28, 2009

a letter written in 2004

Will's note: The following letter was written by my father to my brother. Dad was in El Salvador, living on a small sailboat named Vaya; so far as we know, he's the oldest man to have sailed solo around the world. Mike was a trucker then, living in New Mexico. His daughter served as a Marine in Iraq for a year, and her husband, also a Marine, was serving there then. Dad didn't intend for this letter to be public, but Mom sent me a copy, and I think it's too good to keep private.

April 13, 2004

Dear Mike,

While I strongly disagree with your view of Bush and his war, this letter is in no way intended to influence your opinion. I take a perverse pride in having children who disagree--it's a Shetterly trait.

My concern is the upcoming election, which is already turning nasty, and I fear that old ugly question, "Why does your family not support the US and/or US troops?" will again be asked, and should some jerk ask you that question, I want you to have enough family history to give them a proper answer.

In WW2, your mother joined the US Navy. Her father enlisted in WWI and received a commendation for setting up and maintaining supplies at the base hospital in France. All four Shetterly boys volunteered. Howard was killed in the Air Force. Harry was a combat medic in some of Europe's worst fighting. I was the youngest member of my high school graduation class (16), yet the only one to earn a combat ribbon--although the combat did not amount to much, and after I learned what Harry had gone through to earn his, I never wore mine. Ben joined the Navy after the war.

I also reluctantly approved of the first war against Iraq. The UN voted approval, and it had widespread support in the world. The Vietnam War is another matter--no UN approval, and as it went on and on, it was clearly the wrong war in the wrong place for the wrong reasons.

Will was with me at many of the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, and I think he has a fair understanding of both my opposition to that particular war and my opposition to the treatment demonstrators often heaped on Vietnam veterans. I spoke against this treatment, often and strongly. One of my better friends at the University of Florida was an Army captain with two tours of duty in Vietnam. He was on detached duty to complete his university degree. We disagreed on many aspects of the war, but as friends.

For me, Bush's war has three things in common with Vietnam: 1. It is not supported by the UN, and the world's opinion is strongly opposed. 2. Its causes are far from clear. There is no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, or of terrorist attacks against the US by Iraq. 3. The US government told lie after lie to promote the war. A fourth is simply my opinion, belief, that both wars are harmful to the US's best interests. Terrorism is a matter for police and public policy, not war, which only creates recruits for terrorists.

To end on a personal note: After WW2, I sailed around the world, to Europe and South America, and everywhere, the US flag and US passport were welcomed with open arms. Sadly, this is no longer the case. I still carry a US passport, but never use it. Vaya is US registered and should fly the US flag, but it improperly flies the maple leaf. [Dad has been both a US and a Canadian citizen since the 1970s.]

There is no way to say it without sounding melodramatic, but to see how, in fifty years, the US has fallen from being perhaps the world's most respected and beloved country to its present state of being perhaps the most hated is for me a heartrending experience, almost like a death in the family.

To repeat, this letter is not addressed to your views, but to the anti-US question if it arises. Abraham Lincoln opposed the Mexican War and I never heard him called anti-US--and I do not think an honest, objective view of Shetterly family history supports an anti-US view--and I hope you are quick to point this out, supported by this family history.

Your Dad

P.S. El Salvador is a pro-US country. The US dollar is the official currency. Half the boats here are US, and not one is flying the US flag. With one exception, all the other boats fly their country's flag.