If you've never heard it and don't have time to listen, maybe you'll understand when you read the lyrics:
So many thoughts raced through my mind as I listened to this heartbreaking song. I remember Vietnam. I had two uncles and a cousin serve there (and many years later, both uncles died from cancer due to exposure to Agent Orange). I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't give the war much thought as I was fairly young, although I do remember expressing my very unpopular budding pacifist beliefs. Many of those young Vietnam vets who made it back without physical wounds suffered other types of wounds. Their lives were never "normal." It all seems so senseless now.
My thoughts also turned to Iraq and how we went there under false pretenses. How many 18 year old soldiers "came home" like the young man in the song? How many innocent Iraqi civilians are now mourned by their families. Of course, I also thought of our present predicament in Afghanistan. And I wondered why, for those of us at home, we don't behave as if we're at war. We just go shopping and talk about the latest celebrity buzz.
I also thought about how, back in 2003, Natalie Maines, the lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, made a comment about President Bush in frustration over the impending war with Iraq. As a result, the band was blackballed by country music fans and radio stations. That demographic is typically very vocal about defending our first amendment which gives us the right to free speech. However, those same fans didn't think Natalie Maines should have exercised that right. This very talented band never recovered their former popularity.
As an historian, my mind is trained to look backwards as well as forwards, to compare past actions and results with current events. Hindsight shows us how wrong both the Vietnam and the Iraq wars were and yet political leaders seem to be able to convince many that the current or the next one is justified. We wonder why members of the younger generation often fail to learn from their mistakes. The answer is simple: look at the example set by their elders.