Selleck's ability to bring a likeable reality to the small screen was unparalleled at the time, and to this day.
In one of my favorite episodes, the lead character and a small group of friends, all combat veterans of that war, save for Magnum's employer, Higgins, the very, very proper British Sgt. Major who also had seen his share of action across the globe, went back to Vietnam on a rescue mission. In that two-part episode they faced all the demons of the past, but showed America the savage reality of the enemy we had faced and the courage of the soldiers and civilians of all nations who stood up to the communists.
After they return home to Hawaii, each character lists a host of chores undone, people and projects put on hold, and sacrifices that had been made as Vietnam again became a priority in their lives. Finally, the question is raised, "What if we hadn't gone?"
Selleck pauses for a moment, and answers the question of the ages simply, but succinctly.
I have been reminded of this episode many times in recent days, as the Gathering of Eagles vigil planned for the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on March 17 grows exponentially, and efforts to prevent the vigil take on a frantic tone. The gathering is a grassroots call for a vigil at The Wall to ensure that pro-terrorism protesters who are reenacting a 1967 March on the Pentagon that day, don't deface the Vietnam Memorial as they did the Capitol in January.
Pundits and commentators from across the political spectrum are worrying themselves sick, or trying to appear that they are, over the correctness of the Eagles' gathering, or the possibility that it will fail, or that the media will ignore or misportray the veterans (what else is new?), or that the vets may encounter violence from the anarchists.
Their feigned concerns range from political correctness run amok, to a very real fear that the veterans' vigil will take on far more significance than the pro-terrorists' march regardless of what the media reports.
Talk all you want, the vigil is going forward. Individual after individual and group after group are stepping forward and signing up. The organizers are firm that the purpose of the gathering is to stand a peaceful vigil over the wall and prevent any of the anarchists participating in the pro-terrorism march from dishonoring those whose names are listed on it.
By extension, this vigil is for all veterans and their supporters who have stood up for America and freedom.
By any common sense measure, this vigil is necessary, and long, long overdue. I believe that one of the biggest fears behind the negative commentaries is that mainstream America will finally show the pro-terrorist politicians and news media that no matter what they have done to the contrary, we still believe in our country, and are willing to stand up for it.
Some in the pro-terrorist crowd claim that the veterans' vigil is unnecessary. A spokesman from one of the pro-terror organizations claimed recently that the anarchists who defaced the Capitol in January were but a small number of the "hundreds of thousands" who had been at the pro-terror rally on the DC mall in January.
For starters, the best estimates I have seen of the number of people in that demonstration were around 30,000, not anywhere near 100,000 or "hundreds" of thousands as the spokesman claimed. Face it, no one gives a rat's behind what Cindy Sheehan thinks about anything, and Jane Fonda is a schizoid relic of a bygone day who can't decide whether she is capitalist or communist.
The fact is, she is and always was an opportunist with no common sense or morals. Neither Cindy Sheehan nor any of Fonda's multiple personalities can draw a crowd. But for a pro-terror organizer to drastically inflate the numbers who attended a previous pro-terror rally, to give the so-called 'movement' more importance than it rates, tells us plenty.
America may be fed up with both political parties, but it isn't fed up on America, and certainly does not support the pro-terrorists in our midst.
As to the claims that the veterans are over-reacting to the incident at the Capitol, take a look at what the pro-terrorist march organizers are saying on their own website.
"Tens of thousands of people will be gathering at Constitution Gardens at 12 noon near the Vietnam Memorial prior to the March on the Pentagon on Saturday, March 17. ...
The 58,000 U.S. soldiers who lost their lives in Vietnam and the millions of Vietnamese who were killed, died in a criminal war. The connection between Vietnam and Iraq could not be more clear. Iraq is also a criminal war of aggression. ...
Some tiny pro-Bush groups who support the war in Iraq, and who normally mobilize about 25 people to hold signs when massive antiwar protests take place, are now callously trying to manipulate Vietnam veterans by spreading rumors that the March on the Pentagon will defile the Vietnam Memorial. This lie should be treated with the same contempt that people have for the other lies promoted by Bush and his followers to justify an illegal war of aggression ..."
Yada, yada, yada.Can the issue be more clear? There is no mistaking the pro-terrorists' aims. Once again, America is a criminal enterprise, once again its veterans are war criminals, and once again groups who have no real agenda save for the downfall of democracy are using the very freedoms that veterans fought for to attack and overthrow the country that guarantees those freedoms.
As a Marine brother put it recently, the pro-terrorist march is organizing "Within spitting distance" of the Vietnam memorial. Their web site makes their intentions all too clear.
But there is a solid truth at work here that will prevail, as truth always does. This is the communication age, and mainstream America is communicating. We who were spat upon when we came home from Vietnam were not organized, we were not in large-scale contact with each other, and we did not have anywhere near as much information available to us as we do now.
This time we are organized and we are talking to each other constantly. We have seen what happens to our allies if we leave them helpless. To somehow claim that the millions of Southeast Asians who died at the hands of the communists after South Vietnam fell in 1975 did so because of America or its veterans is despicable, dishonest, unsupportable and outright false.
The millions who died were killed by the communists. The allies of the communist forces in the 60s and 70s are in many cases the same people who are supporting the terrorists today. History does repeat, and to follow this concept to its logical end ensures that millions more innocents will die at the hands of terrorists if the pro-terrorist forces prevail. This time, millions who die will be Americans on American soil.
There is no question that the vigil is necessary, and for it to succeed, it needs only to occur. Whether the vigil is attended by 50 veterans, or 500 or 5000, is not relevant. That we go, and stand shoulder to shoulder to defend our memorials and the honor and dignity of the Americans who died defending our freedoms is all that matters.
Regarding the possibility of violence, it is likely only if it is used by the pro-terrorists and their anarchist brethren. But I would caution those prone to violence to think twice before attacking a solid mass of people who are the all-time masters at improvisational combat. The media can rewrite history all it wants, but we have defeated every enemy we ever faced, regardless of how vicious the tactics they used.
We have improvised, we have adapted and we have overcome every single time. I wouldn't recommend violence against this group, especially from people who are attempting to shield their true pro-terrorism agenda from the public by claiming to be marching for "peace."
We will stand our vigil, peacefully, but firmly. Attacking us would be foolhardy and counter-productive on many fronts.
I realize that the hand-wringers and worry warts will continue to chew on this issue right up until March 17, and probably even afterwards. That is their nature and it won't change.
But there is a simple and succinct answer to the question "What if we don't go?"