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In Honor of our Vietnam Veterans

05/30/2012

There are a few things I agree with President Obama on, and when he spoke about those who fought in Vietnam as being “denigrated,” I could not have agreed more.  Per Ken Thomas, of the Associated Press, May 28, 2012, President Obama is quoted as saying, “”You were sometimes blamed for the misdeeds of a few. You came home and were sometimes denigrated when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened.” President Obama is right.

The Vietnam “War,” a battle fought by Americans in Vietnam against the spread of communism by Ho Chi Minh, was never a declared war to begin with.  The earliest involvement by the United States in Vietnam can be traced back to 1932 when the French withdrew from Vietnam.  At that point Vietnam was no longer a French colony.  Ho Chi Minh, who had fought for the French, claimed control of the north and began a communist government.

The advisory role of the US in Vietnam eventually grew into a military role. By the time the Americans pulled out in 1975 over 58,000 military personal had died in Vietnam.  These Americans are memorialized at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC.  As with all the war memorials it is a somber place which brings to mind the costs of war.

All wars fought take a large toll in human life, but in the history of the United States no military conflict has brought more shame to the United States. By this I do not mean shame because we were fighting for freedom in Vietnam, as many might think, not at all.  Americans, who really understand and value the freedom, have a longing for people, suffering under oppressive governments, to have freedom.  We have demonstrated this over and over again.

Our shame is not that we fought in Vietnam.  Our shame is in how we treated those who served our country in that fight.  While the hippies were communing in open fields enjoying drugs and sex, others were fighting for their lives and the lives of a people group in a far off land.  While we marketed the peace symbol on everything from clothing to automobiles and carried signs, “love not war,” our young men were being drafted into a military for the purpose of fighting a war in Vietnam.  As the American distaste for the war intensified, protests and marches began.  All the anger against the war surfaced, boiled over, and spilled out in rage against the innocents whose only sin was obeying their commanding officers and their government leaders.

Today our military men and women are given the honor they are due.  Today we treat our military as they should be treated, with respect and dignity.  These soldiers find themselves being thanked by strangers, honored by city officials, and given preference wherever possible.  The veterans of the Vietnam engagement were never welcomed home by anyone but their loved ones.  They were often cursed, spat upon, and insulted publicly.  They were treated like they were a blight on civilization.  None of them were honored, few if any were thanked, and a Vietnam vet learned pretty quickly to hide the fact that they fought in Vietnam.

The military engagement ended in 1975, but it has been only in the last few years that these brave young men, now entering their senior years, have been able to freely speak up about their service.  This generation is my generation.  I could not understand the insanity while it was happening, and as I look back, I see this as one of the darkest periods of history in the United States.  I am embarrassed by the foolishness and cruelty of my generation.  I am embarrassed by a generation who thought drugs and sex, and free love was all there was to life, while the country and the world struggled with life and death issues.

We owe a great deal to the survivors of the Vietnam fighting, and as these heroes move into their senior years, I hope this country will give them the dignity, the respect, and the honor they are due.  I hope they, as seniors, will not once again have to feel like they are cast offs, unmentionables, and unwanted.

Today, on the real Memorial Day, I thank those who served, I honor the memory of those who died, and I pray the people will do right by these, their countrymen and heroes.

From → God and Country

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