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 the 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.