Beyond All the Flag Waving…

Mike, my friend and Vietnam vet, recently posted some of his thoughts about his Army service.   I was reminded of my high school years during that war era and the angst over Vets Daythe draft lottery that the boys I knew suffered — all they wanted was the war to end before they were called up to go fight.  To participate in the fighting in Southeast Asia was the absolute last thing in the world they wanted to do.  Nevertheless, under the duress of American draft law, many of those kids — because that’s what they were —  served in the military.  Most returned, but some didn’t.   Of those who returned, none came home happy about what they had done.  No one ever mentioned that they were glad to have killed commies, or fought to make the world safe for democracy and our freedoms. More than anything, there seemed to be a sense of relief to be home and reluctance to discuss the events they had witnessed.

To add insult to injury, our Vietnam vets had to experience war on two fronts.  One was their tour of duty in Southeast Asia.  The other was here in America where they were shamed for their service.  They were  scorned, insulted and even spat on by vociferous anti-war activists.  In other words, many in this country failed to make the distinction between the unpopular war and the troops who served in it.  It wasn’t until 2011, that the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution to provide these veterans with the chance at a proper welcome.  May 30, 2011 was designated “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”  About time.

No wonder that many Vietnam vets are ambivalent about their participation in this war on behalf of this country.  I have a feeling that Mike speaks for many of them in the following blog post:

I’m uneasy if someone thanks me for being a veteran.  I did not join the Army to serve my country, to keep my fellow citizens safe and free, or to bring democracy to foreign nations.  I joined because I didn’t have a girlfriend and ran out of money for college; my new draft card marked me as 1-A.  Joining voluntarily might let me avoid the infantry and become a pilot.  Surely, I thought, pilots had lots of girlfriends.

In October 1967, at the age of 18, I was shipped off to basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. By January I had started flight school at Fort Wolters, Texas, near Mineral Wells, and then finished at Fort Hunter-Stewart just outside Savannah, Georgia.  By October 1968 I had my wings and my bars and was headed to Vietnam . . . [continue reading at http://www.mtweg.com/2013/11/reflections-on-veterans-day.html ]

Welcome home, Mike!  And to all veterans, may you receive the respect you deserve for fulfilling your obligations to this country — something most of us will never be called upon to do.

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About nowandthenadays

Observer of life who writes about Austin, women's issues, history, and politics. I retired as a Texas Assistant Attorney General after almost 40 years in state government in May, 2013.
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6 Responses to Beyond All the Flag Waving…

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the remembrance. It helps to recall that most veterans were just kids at the time and doing what they had to do

    • Having raised two sons, I often wondered how it is that, as a civilized country, he send kids into harm’s way. That, of course, is one of the rationales behind a volunteer army, i.e., you will attract more mature people who want a military career. But there are always the kids who don’t have any other options in life…alas, still getting killed. Wait, I have an idea: Let’s just stop these crazy wars that have nothing to do with our country’s security!!

  2. John Franks says:

    I joined the Air Force in 1963, not because I was patriotic or wanted to serve my country. The draft was in my future, college didn’t seem possible, and the military offered educational opportunities. I’m uncomfortable with the “Thanks for your service” that comes up on Veterans day. It’s not something I did that was anything beyond just a part of my growing up.

  3. Colonel Allison says:

    Jeffee, Thanks so much for this one. Unlike Mike, I was a major by the time I flew off to SEA and therefore a lifer. View from the top much different than from the top. A shitty little war that cost us so much. Hard to see the cost benefit in that one.

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