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My Friend Larry

When I was a young boy I had a friend named Larry Harden. We were not the closest of friends, as Larry was 6 years older than me and when you are young that is a very big age difference. But I liked Larry. He was a nice and kind person who was interested in automobiles. Where many teenage boys go out of their way to act like a tough guy, especially towards younger boys, Larry always had a friendly word and a smile.

Larry lived about a mile from me and a few houses away from my grandmother. From my grandmother’s front porch you could see the Harden’s house and the driveway where Larry would work on his car. My dad and Larry’s dad were old friends and sometimes while visiting my grandmother we would go over and see what Larry was up to while he tinkered with his car. And sometimes Larry would stop by our house to show us what improvements he had made.

Then one day in 1970 while he was working as a mechanic for a local auto dealership Larry got his greetings from our government. He was drafted into the Army.

It worried his mother and the other adults, but I don’t recall being overly concerned myself. After all, others I knew had been drafted into the services and sent off to places like Germany and Kansas, so I was sure everything would be okay. And besides, it was the right thing to do, or so I had been led to believe.

My dad had been drafted and sent off to fight the Japanese in World War II. He wouldn’t talk about it very much, mainly keeping to subjects like his friends from basic training and how hot the weather was and how bad the food was overseas. I knew he had to have been a hero fighting for what is right and good in the world as I grew up reading comic books and watching TV shows that told me that inarguable truth.

Now we were fighting the communists over there so that we wouldn’t have to fight them over here; you know, the good old domino theory. Plus we were fighting for the freedom of the Vietnamese people, so that they could be free and live just like us.

So Larry went off to basic training to learn how to protect his fellow countrymen from evil and I went along with my daily routine knowing that all was right in the world. Well, maybe everything wasn’t right, but if the hippies and other malcontents would just go along with the program then things work a whole lot smoother and the problems of the world would be solved oh so much more quickly.

Then one Sunday in January of 1971 things changed.

It was an unseasonably warm day in Pennsylvania and we were sitting on my grandmother’s front porch. Then I saw a car pull up to the Harden’s house. “Look, Dad, there’s an Army guy at the Harden’s”, I said. My father immediately told my younger brother and me to go inside the house. We protested as it was such a beautiful day and we were curious about the goings on at the Harden’s. But my dad knew what was going on and he took us inside.

He sat us down in the living room and got my mom, my aunt and my grandmother from the kitchen.

Then he told us that Larry was dead.

How could this be? I couldn’t understand it. I had just seen Larry in his uniform a few weeks earlier and he had said he was going to California. But my dad knew that the only reason for that officer to be arriving on a Sunday afternoon was to give the family the sad news that their soldier had been killed.

I was stunned on that day. And I remain stunned over 36 years later.

Larry was going to California like he had said weeks earlier. He just left out the part that California was only a stop on the way to Vietnam. And three days after he had arrived in Vietnam, Larry Harden was killed in a helicopter crash.

Larry was twenty years old when he died. A kind and nice young man. The type of man that any parent would be happy to have their daughter marry. But he never got that chance. He never got a chance to own his own auto repair business. Or serve on his church council. Or join the Lions Club or Elks or Rotary. Or tell his mother that he loved her one more time.

Today we have generals and politicians in Washington once again telling us we have to fight people on foreign soil in order to protect ourselves from their evil ways. Once again we have our friends, neighbors and family members dying and becoming maimed in order to continue the status quo. Again the media promotes the government propaganda that frightens people into continuing to support interventions into other lands that are lining the pockets of the well to do and well connected with profits from the violence. This time they point to the armed forces as being made up of volunteers as a further justification for their actions. They want to maintain a volunteer force to make it easier for many people to hide their eyes from the reality of the situation.

What did my friend Larry die for? He died for lies and deceptions. Just like every other soldier in Vietnam and just like every soldier in Iraq. Many people don’t want to face that truth. They become angry. And I understand their anger. It is a terrible thing when you do something for noble and righteous reasons but are used by your leaders in a way that corrupts your intentions. And it is easy to become angry because you do not want to face the truth of how you were deceived. It is easier to deny that you were deceived and to deny that you were corrupted.

We have to stop the deceptions and corruptions. We have to return to the rule of law and the defense of our Constitution. Only by doing that will the taint of the deceptions and corruptions be removed from those who do not deserve that fate. If we truly want to honor the deaths of those who have fought in unjust and illegal wars, in wars that we now call a mistake, then honor the Constitution, honor the rule of law.

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Well done

Nice job

Universal National Service

I seen this on the RonPaul2008NYC.com website.

So it seems when the "Government" says, there won't be a draft, what they are not say is its' because they changed its name.

Michael Nystrom's picture

Excellent story - thank you.

Personal stories are always excellent reminders that the things we read about in the news, and hear about on TV so dispassionately have a very real impact on society, and the lives of individuals who make up our society.

One point that I would like to reiterate is that Ron Paul is absolutely, positively 100%, against the draft. For more information, see Chapter 3 of his book, Freedom Under Siege, which you can download for free here:


The title of Chapter 3 is "The Draft or Freedom." While Congress has the right to "raise an army" under the Constitution, it does not have the right to draft one. This issue will become increasingly important in the years ahead. It is clear if the government wants to keep fighting and expanding wars, a draft will become inevitable.

People remain unconcerned about the war because it does not affect them personally. America is not at war - the military is at war. America is at the mall, where George Bush asked us to go after 9/11. If young people and average Americans remain asleep, there the prospect of being drafted ought to wake them up.

Thank your for sharing your experience with us.


All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

The draft

Thanks, Michael.

It's good to be posting again. I am just now recovering from what had been a two week battle with the Salmonella bacteria. There are many, many things worse than that, but my energy and concentration have been at a low ebb since the problem first began.

I, too, oppose the draft in every way. Though the lack of it makes it much easier for the government to pull the wool over the people's eyes regarding our foreign misadventures. One thing that truly irritates me is when supporters of the war say that our military is volunteer so those who are doing the fighting must approve of our policies. That is so often followed by, "they knew what they were getting into, so getting killed or wounded is the chance they were willing to take." The callousness of these people would astound me if not for the fact that our chief executive leads the way in this regard.

A bit more regarding my late father.

Dad was an old conservative. He backed Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Ronald Reagan in 1976, 1980 and 1984. He owned his own small business and didn't want the government nor the unions telling him how to run it.

After Pearl Harbor in 1941 he waited "until they came and got me" before entering the service. He was one of the few northerners assigned to the 31st Division of the US Army (the "Dixie Division") and was not given the best reception by some of his fellow soldiers, particularly since he didn't treat certain civilians around Ft. Benning, GA, in the same manner as his compadres. In other words, he believed that all men are created equal.

He asked for transfer to the 10th Division but was talked out of it by his commanding general. The general explained how the 10th would be deployed to Italy and the chances of casualties would be much higher than with the 31st in the South Pacific. Especially since the general already had decided that my dad would serve in the headquarters battalion with him. So my dad withdrew his request for transfer and headed for New Guinea, Mindanao and the Phillipines (where he would later meet and speak to Gen. Douglas MacArthur).

My dad would tell me how lucky he was to serve in the headquarters battalion. He slept on a cot every night and ate his meals in a mess tent. He contracted malaria, but that was better than contracting a bullet. He was shot at nearly every night as Japanese planes bombed and strafed their locations. We didn't buy Japanese made products while I was growing up because, as my dad explained, "those people were trying to kill me." On some occasions he would be sent up in a plane himself, a Piper Cub. He would radio in enemy troop locations for artillery strikes. On one occasion he found bullet holes in the canvas fuselage 6 inches behind where his head had been when they arrived back at the airfield - his closest call of the war.

A few years ago he and I were discussing the war in greater detail than he had been ever able to do before. He explained how lucky he was in his assignment and how much he respected guys like his buddy Bill, who fought on the front lines throughout Europe, and Wayne, who died under 'friendly fire' at St. Lo. They had gone through so much more than he had. He told me how terrifying it was to awaken at night to the sounds of bombs and machine gun fire raining down from the sky. Then, with tears in his eyes, he said that if some how, some way, some one could tell him today that in all of the artillery strikes he had called in "that not one enemy soldier had ever been killed, well, that would make me one happy guy."

It is bad enough for soldiers to be put in harm's way when we as a nation are attacked. But to choose to do such a thing under the so-called doctrine of pre-emption is nothing short of criminal. It must be stopped for the sake of every man and woman who is brave and noble enough to volunteer to join the armed forces to defend our country and our Constitution.