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Honoring Vietnam Veterans
I attended a ceremony today to honor our neighborhood’s Vietnam Veterans at our war memorial. It began with the singing of our National Anthem. The speaker then described his incredulous experience and how he was drafted. He had just graduated high school and was a brand new immigrant here in the United States! He said he didn’t think as an immigrant that he could be drafted, but he was. He was very young and ill-prepared for life, let alone war, and it seemed surreal until his low number meant he was being called up, and it became a reality.
The next thing he knew, he was heading to Vietnam. He looked around and remembered thinking how many would make it back. Six of his team were killed upon arrival. He didn’t know anything about war, or chemical weapons and was scared to death. However, he was one of the lucky ones who made it through and came home. He said they were told at the end of the war on the flight home that the president said they were all being treated to a free steak dinner. Not one soldier took the offer.
Like all Vietnam veterans upon arriving back in the US, he was told to duck down in the back seat leaving the airport and to be prepared for protests. There was no parade, banners or cheers, like with other war homecomings. But there was shouting and sneering and name-calling. He said he just wanted to put on clean clothes and go home.
After all that, his main and first goal was to become a US citizen, and he pursued that dream to be a part of the greatest country in the world – his words. Six months later, it became a reality. His family joined him and became citizens too. He suffered terrible PTSD, as many do, and had to learn how to cope.
Another veteran stood and said that President Obama created the day to honor the Vietnam War heroes and President Trump made it an official US Holiday – March 29 – elevating it to the status of Memorial Day or Pearl Harbor Day. I looked on my wall calendar and it was not listed.
The ceremony continued with a circle of men and they very slowly and methodically lowered the flag, while stepping two steps at a time while facing the flags – the US Flag and the Flag of the Missing POWs. I had to bite my lip hard to keep from crying behind my sunglasses. I told myself if they can hold it together, I can.
There were salutes and as they read the numbers of the fallen, whose names are etched on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC, his voice cracked, and he had to pause before continuing to speak. I felt that he and all those that serve… bear a wound that only heals on the surface.
I was just new in high school myself and ignorant of that world. The protests in the park, anti-war speeches, and Jane Fonda meant little to me. I knew war was bad, and little I could do. The speaker said the national archives list the youngest age to serve was 22. He smiled and shook his head no – 18 or 19 were some of the ages in his group. He said the starting age for veterans from WWII was 26. I thought about all those that fight, are forced to fight, and they sometimes wonder for what, but they go. Today they spoke with love and sadness, but did not show bitterness. Their faces seem to be watching a silent movie only they could see, as the rest of us looked on.
They still honor all of us every day by their sacrifice and service. I felt so privileged to be standing amongst them today.
Published in General
A great post and tribute. Thank you.
Did not know the significance of the date. Just saw it on Hot Air. The date the last American military left the country. My carrier then getting overhauled in San Francisco so was not focused on the date but knew it was over for us. Lost 3 college classmates in that fiasco but none of the pilots in the two months in Sept-Oct. ’72 the ship was on Yankee station. I was real lucky NRTOC got me through law school before I wound up on the ship. Probably couldn’t fly my way out of a paper bag anyway.
I think your speaker is fast and loose with facts.
Those in the military in WWII were very young. Why was Pappy Boyington called Pappy (Gramps, actually)? Because at 31 years old he was ten years older than almost every other person in the squadron — and they were pilots so they were slightly older. When he says the “youngest to serve was 22” he is making a completely false statement. I’ll refrain from calling him an out right liar because he could be senile instead, but there’s no way anyone should ever make that claim who knows anything about the people in a military unit.
Why would the “president” be offering a steak dinner?
As soon as someone starts citing their PTSD, my brain defaults to scammer. Sure, PTSD is a real and usually temporary thing, but it’s mostly a way to suck out VA benefits for a malady that cannot be proven or disproven and can be milked for the rest of their lives. When my units came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA was begging us all to claim to have PTSD. Begging. I’m not exaggerating.
Why would he mention chemical weapons? I’m sure, if he were really in Vietnam which is not a given, that he was taught about chemical weapons, but they weren’t used there. Chemical weapons haven’t been used against Americans since WWI.
I think you should be very wary of accepting that guy’s word on anything. I wasn’t there and I’m getting his story second hand from you, but let’s just say that I don’t think you should accept the veracity of his speech too readily.
Dad was a second Lt and Marine Corps pilot at 20 years of age. Got back from Iwo Jima at age 22.
Our dad was a first lieutenant at age 22 when he landed on Omaha Beach. Which in no way is meant to make light of the mistreatment of Vietnam veterans after they got home. I have brothers-in-law who experienced it firsthand.
But, there’s no need to diminish the sacrifice of others in order to gain sympathy. Our nation bears the wounds of all the wars, but especially the ones our government never intended to win.
I am not sure about the age group from WWII but I agree with you on that. Photos look very young from back then. This story says there was a fire and reconstructing archives has been difficult:
He didn’t use the word chemical weapons – that was my entry. He said he had never heard of Agent Orange or Napalm – to me those are chemical weapons. I wasn’t there either and this is his recollection and he seemed very coherent. I believe his PTSD was real, his nightmares that he described of that time. There were others that spoke in the same way. Thank you for your service too.
Agent Orange was a defoliant. It was not intended to have an effect on people.
Napalm is essentially a flame thrower in a bomb. It is an amazing weapon. I’m sad we stopped using it.