Friday, August 05, 2005

They Get Letters

To the Editor:

Bob Herbert's touching column about Specialist Fourth Class Hugo Luis Gonzalez, a maimed Iraqi war veteran, hit me especially hard ("Forget the War? Many Can't," Aug. 4).

I spent last weekend at a Silver Springs, Md., hotel near Walter Reed Army Medical Center. There, on Sunday morning, I helped a young wife wheel her legless husband into the elevator, then the dining room. He dandled a pretty 2-year-old on what remained of his lap. Another tiny beauty clutched the wheelchair, trying to help.

As we entered the dining room, we saw 10 or 12 cheery young men and women about to be seated. When the amputee rolled into view, he waved to the group. Only one of the group waved back. Another gave the vet a thumbs-up gesture. Strangely, all the others looked away or fumbled with napkins, newspapers and chairs.

Eavesdropping on them during the meal, I think that I discovered why so many of them seemed ill at ease. They were members of a conservative college student group, and the subject of their breakfast meeting was how to improve their campus recruitment activities.

Some World War II feistiness left in me wanted to ask, "If you're so ardent about the war, why don't you enlist?"

Art Shay
Deerfield, Ill., Aug. 4, 2005