Who Dies for America?

By Marc Dion

August 8, 2016 3 min read

The young man on whose grave the nation dances had the last name Khan. Not Cohen. Not Cohan.

Cohen is a Jewish name. Cohan is Irish. Jewish boys named Cohen, unable to get into some American colleges, called "Christ killers" in the streets, went ashore at Normandy. Irish boys named Cohan, the Gaelic still thick on their lips, bled to death from belly wounds at Shiloh. Back home in New York, they still faced "No Irish Need Apply" signs.

The despised hillbillies of Appalachia left their blood on Iwo Jima. Georgia's crackers, never out of their home count before, died screaming at Khe Sanh.

Black men who had seen their uncles hanging from trees joined and fought the Kaiser. Their sons, still likely to be lynched for looking too long at a white woman, fought in World War II. Japanese-American boys left families in American concentration camps to fight as a World War II outfit they called "The Purple Heart Regiment."

Despised "Redskins'" baffled the Japanese with their code talk. Mexican-Americans used to being called "greasers" came out of Texas to fight in Korea.

Chink. Jap. Kike. Wop. Mick. Polack. Spic. Coon. Redneck.

They heard it all on the streets of their hometowns, in their schools, at their jobs, from people who called themselves leaders.

It's still going on. The ugly names.

Camel jockey. Rag head. White trash. Homo. Project rat.

But they'll go, some of them will.

They are the ones America likes least. They are jokes, locked out of every promise, laughed at, hated as casually as you hate the cockroach you see in your kitchen.

But they'll go, some of them will.

Pushed away by people who mouth the word "democracy" in a leer of bigotry, they'll go, they'll join, they'll take up the gun. They'll die.

They're beautiful, these last-ditch American boys and girls, who, turned away at so many doors, find the door open at the recruiting station.

For the very poor among them, the uniform is the best suit of clothes they've ever owned and the food in basic training is better and more plentiful than what they had at home. The army will fix your teeth, give you eyeglasses.

Who knows why they join, these boys and girls who have more reason to hate America than they do to love America.

But they'll go, some of them will.

It used to be they'd be hated until they joined, then hated in the dusty little town around heir army base, then sent off to fight and at least they'd be heroes if they died.

Now, we don't even give them that little bit of comfort.

But they'll still go, some of them will.

To find out more about Marc Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, "King of The World on $14 an Hour" is a collection of his 2014 columns and is available for Nook and Kindle.

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