Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Letter From Costa Rica

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail addressed to a Rick, forwarded by my friend Dan Rupli. The e-mail seemed to be sent from Costa Rica, a country which impressed me with its beauty and tranquility during last year's visit. Since I do not know this Rick, but I do know that Dan was buying property in Costa Rica, I was not sure if it was spam or not and so I checked with Dan in a separate mail. He confirmed being the sender and agreed that I can post his letter on my blog.  The content was not what I expected and it may surprise you too.

From:  Dan Rupli
 Tuesday,  June 16, 2015

Subject:  To my new friend Rick, with gratitude and admiration

I am watching the magical cloud formations at 5,000 feet altitude at the entrance to Mt. Chirripo Nabetional Park in South Central Costa Rica. Chirripo reaches a height of 12,000 feet, which is Colorado Rocky class and is the tallest mountain in Costa Rica.

I am staying with my wife and a close friend in a small jungle house that I am about to purchase, which is bordered by two wild cascading rivers which join at the property after tumbling out of Chirripo and rushing South toward magnificent Pacific beaches about 45 minutes South of here.

Sitting here on the patio after a wonderful breakfast with good Costa Rican coffee listening to the river sounds all around makes me feel like I am in a kind of Eden with birds, butterflies, flowers, and hummingbirds dancing all around me. I have had the good fortune to travel extensively around the world, but this small magical place in the cloud forests of the Talamanca Mountains, populated by “the happiest people on earth” is the most wonderful place I have ever been.

Costa Rica could forest
You would be right to conclude that this ought to be the source of almost unlimited joy at the moment, but I am of this world, with a blessed life experience, and I must vent some deeply felt feelings that were unleashed by a chance encounter with a Vietnam veteran that I have befriended since my arrival. Please indulge me.

Like many of my generation, my life was shaped by giant and consequential events; the Civil Rights Movement, the advent of Rock and Roll music, the multiple assassinations of great leaders who chartered my own course and beliefs, and the war in Vietnam.

Two days ago I met a man of my age named Rick who spent his early years in Utah, before enlisting as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Rick is a gentle soul and a chain smoker who, like me has been married more than once, and who recently met and married a newly widowed Tica lady who is appropriately known as Gabby. They are in the process of putting together a tourist business here locally. Over lunch, Rick and I talked about politics, particularly the unfolding mess in the Middle East. We both drew parallels with the current experience to the horrors of our involvement in Vietnam.

It is not my purpose to discuss the President’s Middle East foreign policy. I happen to believe that he and John Kerry are right to focus on obtaining a workable nuclear weapons ban treaty with Iran, and if that doesn’t meet the approval of the thug who is running Israel at the moment, or the ultra cruel and corrupt Saudi Royal Family, then I think that Obama may have it just about right.

But this morning I focus my rage on the Chicken Hawks who engineered through lies, deception, and cooked intelligence our very presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. These right wing cowards, creeps and criminals have names: Bush(W), Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and others. The common thread that binds each of these “armchair patriots” to one another like perps chained together after a drug raid is that all of them favored and promoted the war in Vietnam, and all of them did everything they could to duck service in that war. George W. Bush actually deserted his National Guard unit for over a year to get out of serving after the considerable cost to tax payers for his training as a pilot. Of course he was never prosecuted for desertion because of his father’s extensive connections. Dick Cheney received no less than seven deferments while hiding under his bed from service in the war, like Bush and the others.

Costa Rica, Arenal area

I have experienced a certain guilt in not having served in Vietnam like many of my friends, but early on I supported the idea of trying to “defend the South Vietnamese people from their marauding Communist neighbors from the North.” I even tried without success to join the Marines in order to avenge the death of a close high school buddy of mine who was an early casualty of that bogus War, But I was prevented from enlisting because I was married with a child.

Today those same draft dodging Chicken Hawks who let less fortunate people fight and die in a war that the cowards supported and never served in are harping about the Administration’s “weakness and lack of resolve” in a tangled Middle Eastern morass that is entirely of their own creation. To date those Middle Eastern wars have lasted beyond a decade, cost the lives of thousands of Americans - the flower of a generation, cost trillions of dollars in national treasure, and resulted in the death and dislocation of hundreds of thousands of native innocents, and they show no sign of winding down. And still the Chicken Hawks continue to put complete hypocrisy on display without a tiny shred of shame attached to it.

This narrative seeks to tie the same culprits with their “lapel pin patriotism” to both the wars in Vietnam and the Middle East, but most importantly it is a tribute to my new friend Rick whose suffering and sacrifice for a questionable cause goes way beyond ordinary military service.

Rick was landing his helicopter in a “hot zone in the jungle” to pick up wounded soldiers on a hot and sunny day during the height of the Vietnam War. When he landed he said that the jungle was so dark that he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face. After loading the wounded, he lifted the chopper with its precious cargo up to the bright sunshine above the treetops. At that moment he said that his entire life went into a kind of slow motion as he saw the flash of a rocket tearing toward him from the jungle floor. He banked the helicopter violently to the right. The rocket missed the main body of the helicopter but severed the main rotor from the rest of the vehicle. The copter didn’t have far to fall back into the darkness of the jungle, and Rick’s only thought was to not die in a fire, so he leapt into the treetops and fell to the ground as the helicopter exploded nearby into a fireball of human anguish. Rick was severely injured by the fall, but instinctively rose to his feet “running like hell” in total darkness and in no particular direction until he ran into a tree breaking out all of his front teeth. At the same time he heard the sound of an automatic weapon and felt three bullets enter his body - one under his left eye, the second under his left armpit exiting his neck, and the third hitting him square in the sternum. He remembers hearing a loud buzzing sound in his head before passing out. When he awoke he was being dragged by a GI through the jungle who had mercifully administered large amounts of morphine to this fallen soldier. Rick was medivacked shortly afterwards, not fully knowing whether he wanted to survive the events that laid him so low.

It took Rick over a year of intensive care to partially recover from his hideous wounds, which continue to cause him great physical and emotional pain to this day.

Costa Rica, Samara beach

My reaction to Rick's story on all that has transpired in those last couple of days in Vietnam: if there is a Creator, may God bless you Rick, not just for your service but for your suffering and sacrifice for someone else’s hollow patriotism and terrible errors in judgment. And may God damn you George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and all the other creeps and scoundrels who visited havoc and suffering on so many people of different generations by supporting, lying us into, and promoting endless wars for profit in the name of National honor and patriotism. You are all war criminals and worse, each of you have earned a place in the history of infamy.

I met Rick again today for coffee and very little was spoken between us. Our first conversation had taken a lot out of both of us, and I don’t think that either of us had the energy to continue it.

We sat there and marveled at the rapidly changing cloud patterns, the incredible sunbursts that punctuated a gentle rain and the beauty that totally surrounded us in this precious little piece of mountain paradise. Here we were, two aging men of different backgrounds and experience, one a casualty of war, seeking only to find peace, order, justice, and happiness in a world that continues, after all these years, to be turned totally upside down by the folly of false patriots.

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