...And That's My Opinion©

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon



War and Old Men


“The hour is coming when America will act and you will make us proud.”  President George W. Bush, September 20, 2001 – speech to the nation.


As I listened, I thought about the time when my friend Tom and I became eligible for the draft.  He and I had dutifully registered at the local fire station next to Wrigley Field.


My friend is Tom Elia.  Many readers will recall a column I wrote about Tom’s mother Nina and her love of the Chicago Cubs – boy, would she be happy now - or maybe not.  (Please see “Someone to Watch Over Them)


There was also a Mr. Elia - Sol Elia. 


Mr. Elia was a first generation Assyrian émigré and worked in the Chicago area as a house painter.  It was a profession pursued by many local Assyrians in the 40’s and 50’s.

 Mr. and Mrs. Elia and Tom lived at 518 Cornelia, in Lakeview  – I could telephone Tom at  BUckingham 8-1055.  There are things one never forgets. Their house always smelled of good cigars and they always had hot pepperoncini peppers – exotic!  I loved it!


Tom and I were like brothers when we were young and we still are now - both grandfathers receiving Social Security.


The President’s call reminded me of something Tom’s father said to me on the fateful day in the 1950’s, when the draft for the Korean War began.


“War”, he said, not accepting the subtle difference between that word and a Police Action,  the term our government was using to describe what the U.S. was doing in Korea.  Frankly, neither did we, nor did most of the country. 


“Why do they take the young men?  Let them take old men.  I am an old man; you are a young man – too young to die.  You have a lifetime ahead of you.  Let them take me – I have lived my life.”


That conversation is what I thought about when I heard the call to action.  What is this awful thing we must do?  How will we deal with the disruption; the son gone; the father killed; the daughter widowed; the son a widower; the children terrified.  The combinations of horror are endless.


The freedoms of our nation must be preserved - the freedom to be free to move about without fear and to have free choices.  The specter of terrorism must be destroyed.


What a travesty, what a shame, but it is the only answer to preserve the magnificence of this country and to define what it does, should, will, and can mean to all of us.


As Mr. Elia said, “Why not take the old men?”  On this day, almost 50 years later,  I echo that ardent sentiment, although it is not now in fact, as it was not then, a feasible possibility. ” Why not take the old men of all the nations of the world and let them do the fighting.  I guarantee that the fighting would end quickly.  With age comes wisdom, I hope.


Oh, eventually Tom went into the Army and so did I, but we were peacetime draftees.  Weren’t we lucky?  Some of our classmates were not!!  Some returned home – some did not.


They were all heroes – but they were so young---!!


God bless them and those to come.


As the President said, “ We will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail.”


This is after all, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.


...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

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