Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Prattville Dragoons Commander's Column for May 2015

What an eventful last month we have experienced as a camp and as a national organization.  Final preparatory work was completed at Indian Hill Cemetery in a number of workdays which included repairs of the monuments at the historic site.  Congratulations to Benny Harris for his leadership and ownership in directing this worthwhile endeavor for our camp and the community.  Many put in long hours out at the cemetery over the course of the past year including Harold Grooms and Tom Crowley, Bill Branch, Allen Herrod, and many other members, friends and neighbors.  Almost 200 attended a rededication service, what Larry Spears correctly appraised as one of the best events our camp has ever conducted.  What a tremendous project!  Followed by another Prattville Cityfest event where the Dragoons were again greeted warmly and won and influenced many new friends.  A great advertising campaign was launched for this past month’s Confederate History and Heritage Month including beautiful bright red electronic billboard signage announcing the month’s designation and displaying our camp web presence and a brilliant SCV logo. SCV Hunley award presentations to two outstanding JROTC cadets at Prattville and Stanhope Elmore High Schools.  The conclusion of a profound Sesquicentennial of the end of the War for Southern Independence and the beginning of the dark years of Reconstruction.

I found an interesting article online by Margie Mason of the Associated Press, April 29, 2015 which illustrated the discrimination and political retaliation to which the South Vietnamese were subjected in the years following the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War 50 years ago.   It provided a stark comparison of the similarities to the period of Reconstruction in America 150 years ago.  If you eliminated the reference to the respective countries, one would be surprised at the parallels. Of course, it is politically acceptable to express outrage at the conditions in Vietnam, not palatable to recognize the same atrocities existed and were promoted in the Southern United States by our very own federal government. 

Paraphrasing:  Sons fought against fathers.  Many Southern soldiers and civilians were beaten, sent to inhumane POW and concentration camps and denied access to their families, sometimes for years. The South fell to Northern forces when their capital fell in April.  As the north closed in many Southerners chose to leave the country but others didn't want to flee; they wanted the family reunion they had longed for. Southerners were indoctrinated with Northern propaganda and revisionist history.  They were subjected to backbreaking hard labor, often with little food or access to medical care while rebuilding their country destroyed by war.  Veterans farmed vegetables and cleared timber in sweltering heat; there wasn't enough clean water to take a bath, and food rations were thin.  These heroes of the brave struggle for their homeland were taunted and ostracized for having fought for the south.  Inequitable business practices and limited investment in the Southern infrastructure prolonged the suffering and led to poverty.  Discrimination ran rampant, and southerners with ties to their former government were barred from getting jobs, voting or holding office.  A deep divide still exists. In school textbooks, the war is explained as "resistance against the South for national salvation”.  There is nothing written about why the south was fighting or its desire to remain a separate free state.  The wounds still fester among many Southerners who remain staunchly opposed to the oppressive centralized federal government.  "Both sides seem to be still entrenched in the past. It hasn't gone away. The greatest and most sacred monument always lies in the heart of each person.”  Veterans cite their own experience as proof that time and understanding can heal the past — eventually. "If they did it right after the war, it would have been easier," he said of the north recognizing the South's role in the nation's history. "As more time passes, it becomes more difficult. It could be five, 10 years to accept that fact. It could be 50 years (or more).” 

These selected sentences from the article were barely altered, largely substituting Southerners for South Vietnamese.  Amazing that these same atrocities and bigotry could exist in our nation’s history, within our own borders, that “the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be taught by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by all the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, or maimed veterans as fit objects for derision.”

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