WWII veteran: Freedom is never free
By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor - Reporter
FOR visiting Ret. Lt. Gen. Lawrence Snowden of the U.S. Marines, freedom costs something.
In an interview with Variety at the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Saipan Post on Beach Road last week, the 91-year-old WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War veteran said, “Freedom is never free.”
He said the younger generations should look at Iwo Jima, the Korean War and the war in Afghanistan and recognize that freedom costs something.
Snowden, who arrived on Saipan Thursday fresh from a trip to Iwo Jima, advises the younger generations to be always on guard “against the bad guy who would do us in.”
“What I know to be true is God continues to bless America in providing young men and women who are stepping up to volunteer, who are serving and serving well,” he said.
Asked to comment on the U.S.’s role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, “It is hard to talk about that without having a mix of personal feelings.”
For Snowden, at the height of the U.S. involvement in Iraq, “I wasn’t convinced that the weapons of mass destruction were in the hands of the bad guys. I felt we went into Iraq in the wrong basis.”
Despite his opposition to going to war in Iraq, Snowden said, “Having done that, once you’re there, then we have to do whatever we could do to complete the mission.”
As for Afghanistan, Snowden believes that it is turning out to be a much longer and more troublesome process.
He noted the dominance of tribal chiefs who are opposed to a strong central government, which impacts the ways they raise their money.
Of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, he said, “Ultimately, we have to say we have done our job here and we are going home.”
However, for Snowden, whether the U.S. wants to or not may take years to find out.
Curbing post traumatic stress
For those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he said, “I don’t have any answers to that.”
But he said he knows that PTSD doesn’t surface for years.
He also said that going to war and killing people creates troublesome memories.
“Over time, either your mind handles that or it doesn’t,” said Snowden.
He remembers a friend who took part in intense fighting in Vietnam, who up to this day continues to seek psychiatric help “to help him understand the pressures of what he did.”
Describing PTSD as a “dreadful issue,” Snowden also anticipates that this may exact its toll on the country by way of rehabilitation costs for many years to come.
Looking forward, Snowden told Variety he proposes the concept of universal conscription.
“I think any young man or woman ought to give some service to the nation, “ he said.
He said he believes that young men and women to be registered for service at the age of 17. However, he said, they should be given choices.
He suggested that they can serve in the Peace Corps, or as volunteers in hospitals where they are needed by various organizations, among other services to the nation.
He said, “I think everybody ought to do something for the security of the country.”
Latest visit to Iwo Jima
Snowden, who arrived on Saipan accompanied by WWII veteran Lee Marvin’s widow Pam, described his recent visit to Iwo Jima as “great.”
“We had a large delegation of Japanese come down from Tokyo,” he said.
Snowden told Variety that there were survivors of the 1944 battle that made it to the ceremony.
He said the trip brought back haunting memories of the battle.
For them, he said, it was an “emotional experience” to come back for the first time, to stand on the black sand of Iwo Jima.
He said the veterans could not contain the rush of memories. “I have had the good fortune to be there a number of times. I am kind of past that.”
Snowden said the other survivors, when the day was over, sat and thought about what they had done, where they were and what they remember. They cried, he said.
Snowden, who was a 23-year-old captain when the Americans stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima 67 years ago, last visited Saipan in 2004.
He was also part of the invasion of Saipan on June 15, 1944.
At the time they landed on the beach on what is now the location of the Pacific Islands Club, Snowden said, they didn’t see the beauty of it. “The beach had been scarred by bombs and all kinds of junk let lying around.”
“The beach is beautiful now and can be appreciated for what it is,” he said.
Having fought in several significant battles, Snowden believes he is just lucky to have survived.
He told Variety with a smile, “I supposed I am an experienced warrior.”