Categorized | Opinions

Opinion: Tanks…but no tanks.

As a four year veteran of the Vietnam War I think there could have been many other ways we could have honored our veterans than putting a tank in Kamehemeha Park in Kohala.

I know a lot of people worked on this project by donating time and money to make this a reality – but that doesn’t make it right. If there’s one thing I have learned after all my years of living in Kohala is that you ask permission.

A tank is a powerful symbol of killing with machines that ravaged the land relentlessly in pursuit of more victims.

The veteran’s memorial in Washington D.C. of a sculpture of three soldier’s helping each other is a more appropriate symbol of humanity surviving through the tragedy of war.

As parents we worked so hard to keep play guns out of the hands of our children and we try to keep symbols of violence out of their lives. But putting a tank in the park without asking the whole community – especially parents whose children will be growing up wanting to climb all over it – was not a good idea – and I think it will diminish the publics opinion about veterans in a time when we have been rebuilding our relationship with veterans after the disgraceful welcome home we gave the veterans of Vietnam.

Veterans of all wars were boys, barely men, who found themselves in the horrors of war – not the macho warriors we like to glamorize. Our heroes were just ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things in times of great challenge. Heroes performed selfless acts of courage in the name of survival – not in the pursuit of death. Yes, we hear stories of glorified victory that make us proud but I assure you that inside every veteran who has ever seen the tragedy of war is a tortured soul that cannot rest.

Veterans developed close bonds with each other because they were ohana. Our proud veterans were on missions of war, no doubt, and many there not by their own choosing. But I also know our veterans were emissaries of compassion and aloha to the people of foreign lands and to their wounded comrades – their ohana.

I think I would rather preserve that memory than one of mechanized death and destruction – so I say…

Tanks…but no tanks.

Aloha,

Keith Nealy
USN Deep Sea Diver 1st Class
Combat Salvage
Vietnam 1968-72

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