Released in 1968 by the Doors, the Unknown Soldier was considered an antiwar song and banned on many radio stations. The song, however was more of dig at the American media and the way that the Vietnam conflict was televised into our homes and became a part of our daily lives. The lyrics “Breakfast where the news is read/ Television children fed/ Unborn living, living dead/ Bullets strike the helmet’s head” portrays how the news of the Vietnam War was being presented to ordinary people.
Jim Morrison sings about how in the late 60’s American families stared at violent television images, watching a world far away where the unknown soldier is shot, yet life at home went on as usual. The entire scenario seems to normalize the war. People were numb and continued to live their normal lives while their soldiers were dying. The fact that the soldier has no identity is also a strong message to the ignorance and lack of emotion that people had towards the men who were fighting ‘for them.’ And as we all know, the soldier who had no name came home to an unwelcoming party.
Today, military conflicts continue to play out daily on our televisions, our cell phone news feed and throughout social media. This time those who are called to duty are welcomed home but soon forgotten by an overwhelmed VA and by the very people they serve. Today our veterans are faced with homelessness, mental health issues, educational hurdles, long waits and scandalous policies at the VA, and a military suicide rate of 22 a day.
It’s true that today’s veterans have never been more respected, unlike those who returned from Vietnam. But unlike Vietnam veterans many Americans have no personal connection to anyone who has served or is serving in the Armed Forces. Many organizations have hit the media and social outlets to drum up support for Veterans in need but again, America’s eyes have glazed over to the issues faced by our Veterans. Even when it was discovered that a nonprofit claiming to help veterans at risk was misappropriating funds, there was little or no public reaction. And so, it seems the numbness prevails.
Forty years later the unknown soldier is the one struggling with PTSD. The unknown soldier is the one whose life was a daily pill that is now an addiction. The unknown soldier is homeless. The unknown soldier is the one who suffers in silence. The unknown soldier is one of 22 each day that takes his own life.
Perhaps it’s time the unknown soldier had a name and America a plan to support those who served.Share