A number of years ago I wrote a column about then President George W. Bush.
It was not flattering. In my opinion, at the time, the invasion of Iraq was not warranted. The invasion was based on a lie.
I still believe that and I think I have been proven not to be wrong. But my column was a little harsh.
A person, who said he was a Korean War Veteran, wrote to me, in essence, that he was sorry he fought in that war so that fools like me could write the kind of stuff I had written.
He was, in fact, “Ashamed.”
I truly remember that.
He didn’t sign his name. He didn’t leave his phone number. It was e-mailed, however, and I responded.
I took no offense of this man calling me out, giving me his opinion, of thinking lowly of me. I still, to this day, would like to talk to him, to get his opinion on not just those matters, but others.
Sir, you sent your letter by e-mail. I did respond.
If you did not get that e-mail I apologize. You may not, at this writing, even remember the letter you sent.
You were pretty rough on me. You questioned not only my patriotism, but my manhood.
My response, lost in the fog of memories, has left me — the word-for-word response.
But I know, without flinching, the first thing I told you was I appreciated your service to this great country.
Our great country.
I think I also pointed out that I held back on my contempt for the former president at the time — the invasion of Iraq — when I wrote that particular column.
And I pointed out that without your service, your sacrifice, I would not have been able to exercise my right of free speech in my column and write about my dissatisfaction with, what were then, current events.
As you would not have been able to exercise your right of free speech in responding to said column and expressing your dissatisfaction with a member of the free press.
Something like that.
I know, at the time and in the fog of my memory, I tried my best to be respectful, formal, and to acknowledge, that your voice — your opinion — was as important as mine. Maybe more so, you fought for it.
I did not fight for it.
My right to free speech was built on the shoulders of the men and women who have served this country.
Who serve this country still.
After all of these years you may question, as many others may, “Why bring this is up now? What’s the point?”
It still haunts me that I never heard back. Was it a knucklehead prankster, or was it real?
The man (the Veteran) deserved a response. He earned it.
To this day I still wonder, “If we had a chance to talk, would he still feel like his service was wasted?”
Because, sir, it wasn’t.
I’m at my desk, a writer trying to find the right words to honor a Veteran I have never met, who may not even be real, but I’m here.
I’m exercising a right guaranteed to me (and everyone) in this great country, and paid for by you, sir.
At a steep price.
And regardless of what you think of me, I thank you.