Contribution by Aaron Swaney, photo by Devon Reagan
My name is Aaron and I’m married to Dave Garwood’s niece Abby. I never experienced war in the way Dave did, but I served as a Captain of Infantry in Iraq and I would like to offer this perspective to your community and Dave’s memory.
In Proverbs 31:4-8 it says “It is not for… rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink… and remember their misery no more. Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
Please understand that an infantryman loves his brothers-in-arms with a depth that others can’t understand. Even if you really don’t like each other, you will fight and die for each other. I believe this love explains a lot of the Dave we knew after Vietnam. He felt responsible for the lives of America’s sons in his platoon, lives lost. That responsibility afflicted him the rest of his days. He sought solace in the strong drink of his day, in his distress he partook to forget his misery.
An infantryman is trained to ‘go for broke’ and dare the impossible. I believe this attitude bled back into Dave’s attempts to return to civilian life, resulting in him living to the fullest as he saw it in the moment; sometimes damning the consequences. He did not enjoy the assurance that America had sent him to free the peoples of the world, as we did in WWII. After a hard fight to secure a village from the enemy, he was not cheered as our troops were, who liberated Belgium. America did not cheer him when he returned home. I believe this preyed upon him and his follow vets. Dave might have asked himself “why were we sent to fight?”
The truth is that he was sent to fight because of one .50 inch hole in the USS Maddox and a fake battle the Navy accidentally fought against itself in the fog off the coast of Vietnam. Dave served in 1968, the deadliest year for America’s military in the last 70 years, with 16,899 Americans killed in action. In total, we killed an estimated 1.1 million Vietnamese soldiers, and many more civilians. All those deaths, for the offense given by one .50 inch hole.
I ask that we honor Dave’s memory by caring for those who are afflicted with misery, with those in distress. I ask that we honor Dave’s memory by never again needlessly sending your Homecoming King to war.
Dave was not a quiet man, but was (in my experience) unable to open his mouth and speak of the full pain and horror he had known. He did recently profess his faith in Jesus to his brother Gerry. Let us remember that Jesus lovingly accepted Dave ‘just as he was,’ and that Jesus accepts us too, regardless of our failings.
On behalf of my wife, myself, and our family, I thank Mr. Harris and so many others for speaking up for Dave throughout his life, and one final time yesterday; as I have tried to do today