Sunday, May 25, 2008
Tribute to a victim of democracy
Joseph Roble was an idealistic young American soldier in Vietnam in 1967, hell-bent on upholding the goal of spreading democracy.
It was easy to tell from a letter the Latrobe, Pa., man penned home a few months before he was killed by enemy artillery in the infamous battle of Khe Sahn, where U.S. troops fought as if they were defending the last bastions of freedom.
In the letter, the 21-year-old lance corporal with the 26th Marines noted that he had seen a young Vietnamese boy playing in the distance who reminded him of his younger brother.
“I’m prepared to give up my life so he could have the same rights,” Roble wrote in the letter that was discussed Sunday during Memorial Day services at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil, Pa.
Roble hailed from a time when ordinary souls could live in a free country where laws were established to allow people to govern themselves with fairness and justice, said G. William Jayne, a national cemetery coordinator.
However, Jayne said, citizen soldiers today are fighting an uncharted war against terrorism.
He said he wondered if democracy and its ideals can “continue to thrive under a new enemy who has nothing to offer us but hatred.”
“We don’t know what the future will bring us,” he said.
We didn't have a much of a clue about tomorrow in Roble's time, either. I wonder if he would think his death was noble 40 years later, when in Communist Vietnam, children and adults still don't share the luxury of freedom of speech.
(Click here to read David Shribman's take on the legacy of the Vietnam War)