The following post was contributed by Mrs. E. F. Grossman:
My husband and his best friend, Jim, served together from 1966 to 1969 as the sniper/spotter part of a U.S. Army Special Forces team during the Vietnam War. Although they came from different backgrounds and different belief systems (Jim was a Mormon, my husband an Atheist), they bonded together and became closer than brothers. That relationship lasted far beyond the war, until Jim became one of the more than 80,000 veterans that committed suicide by the late 1980’s, an act that devastated my husband, who mourns the loss of his friend to this day.
Jim was the son of a Bishop in the Mormon Church, and could have easily obtained a deferment from service in Vietnam by opting to go on a mission for the church. But like thousands of Mormons who went to war for their country, in addition to serving on missions for the church, Jim saw no reason he should not do both. After all, the Mormon Church has “…..a tradition of U.S. military service that dates back to the Church’s early history …. in 1830”, according to a 2012 article on Huffingtonpost.com.
Jim believed it was his duty to serve his country, so he enlisted in the Army, rather than wait to be drafted. He saw no conflict in serving both his country and his church. His plan was to go on his mission after the war. However, after he signed up for his second tour of duty, against his father’s instructions, his father decided to punish him for his disobedience by forcing Jim’s girlfriend (the love of Jim’s life) to marry a much older member of the church, forbidding her to wait for Jim to come home, and ordered every member of the church to shun Jim.
In an act of incredible pettiness and cruelty, Jim’s father declared that Jim was no longer his son. In an instant, Jim’s entire world was pulled out from under him. Jim had lived his entire life as a faithful Mormon and dutiful son, and before going into the Army, Jim had never been away from home. Re-enlistment had been his only act of disobedience to his father. He did not deserve his father’s punishment, and my husband was never able to forgive Jim’s family for their betrayal and the pain they caused his friend to suffer.
Jim was a very brave and honorable soldier. He was highly decorated with medals (Bronze Star, Silver Star, three Purple Hearts) and five commendations. He was a large part of the reason my husband survived that war.
Jim was a hero. According to a 2002 study by the Center for Studies on New Religions, more than 100,000 LDS members served in the military during America’s twelve year involvement in the Vietnam War. According to an editorial from the LDS First Presidency, “Latter Day Saints are not slackers. They are not conscientious objectors, and they are not pacifists in the usually accepted definition.” In fact, the Church leadership saw an opportunity for LDS members to fulfill their mission by ‘spreading the word’ in Vietnam, in addition to fighting for their country.
Rather than wait to be drafted, a great number of Mormons (like Jim) voluntarily enlisted in the military and served their country during the Vietnam War, although, one of America’s most famous Mormons chose not to fight for his country. According to an article in the Huffington Post, in spite of the fact that he vociferously advocated American involvement in Vietnam, even leading public demonstrations against groups protesting the war Romney avoided military service and the inherent dangers of combat “… at the height of the fighting after high school by seeking and receiving four draft deferments. They included college deferments and a 31-month stretch as a “minister of religion” in (Paris) France, a classification for Mormon missionaries that the church at the time feared was being overused”. Romney was granted the deferment at the same time other Mormons were being denied that same status. The Mormon Church was a strong supporter of the Vietnam War, and “…ultimately limited the number of church missionaries allowed to defer their military service using the religious exemption”. Romney is “…among three generations of Romneys – including his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, and five sons – who were of military age during armed conflicts but did not serve”.
In addition, the article cites Romney’s versions of his ‘Vietnam-era decisions’ have changed, over the years. In 1994, he told the Boston Globe that he had no intention of serving in Vietnam. By 2007, during a bid for the presidency, he told the Boston Globe that he “was frustrated, as a Mormon missionary, not to be fighting alongside his countrymen” …and that he had “…longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam,” falsely implying that he could only choose one of those options.
According to a quote by Jon Soltz, a veteran of two Army tours in Iraq and chairman of VoteVets.org, “He (Romney) didn’t have the courage to go. He didn’t feel it was important enough to him to serve his country at a time of war.” I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Soltz.
Lately, there have been multiple news articles hinting at another Romney run for president. I find it very hard to trust a man with Mr. Romney’s history (both word and deed) to be America’s Commander In Chief, especially in time of war. He appears to be the kind of man who would have no problem with sending Americans to war, as long as he and his family members do not have to fight that war. There have been many heroic Mormons, like Jim, but I do not believe Mitt Romney is one of them. It appears that he has as little understanding of what it takes for men to go to war as he does of the 47%. Americans cannot afford a Mitt Romney presidency.