has only been in the last few years that Vietnam Veterans have been
acknowledged for their duty rendered to this country. Many cities have
built or are building memorials. There have been large parades, church
services, major motion pictures, television coverage and probably most
important, groups of Vets working through their post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD). Though it be two decades late, I join in to applaud
them along with the cheers of millions of Americans. I am deeply ashamed
for those who turned their backs and in ignorance wrongly condemned
them. Like so many others I was deceived by the media and the underlying
philosophies prevalent at the time. Though there were accounts of
inexcusable murders and corruption on all sides, the latest statistics
prove that the majority of those who fought on the line did so with
bravery and compassion. These accounts of the common soldier, under the
worst of conditions, were never related to the American public. It
seemed to be more of media story to focus on the rarities and
corruption. I write as an act of homage towards the men and women who
served in Vietnam, those who gave their lives, those who remain missing
and those who returned. I honor the courage, sacrifice and devotion to
duty and country.
If we were to believe in the
undermining lies our conclusion would be the war was in vain and lives
were taken without purpose or reason. It is imperative that we not
swallow this! I suggest there was purpose and would like to inform you
of some truths. Not a moment of the Vietnam War escaped our Lord, He is
always at war with evil. He will use it towards His own glory (Ps.
76:10; For the wrath of man shall praise Thee; With a remnant of wrath
Thou shalt gird Thyself.). War is a result of our sin and it is not
God's desire for us. He still graciously works with us, even while we
wage war. Many will come to the TRUTH by the things they suffer, for
even the Son Himself, learned obedience this way. (Heb. 5:8; Although He
was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.).
this day most people don't understand the true facts of the war and the
credit due to the Vets. I have read many times that we didn't lose any
battles of substance. Though many American Generals have repeated that
so often as to believe themselves, I desire to be accurate and think
that the answers are somewhere in the balance of it all. That is the
political side and I choose mainly to focus on the human side, however
there are some facts to consider.
are always quick to hear that 58,000 Americans died, but did you know
that 600,000 Communist were killed? Our men and women did not lose the
War in Vietnam. Another fact that wasn't heard was that the American
Congress abandoned and betrayed our loyal South Vietnamese... watching
as North Vietnamese soldiers with Russian tanks and guns invaded and
overwhelmed the South.
unknown fact is how the United States abandoned the Hmong people of
Laos. The Hmong people worked with the CIA and provided valuable
information for our bombing raids and fought the NVA to prevent their
advancement in Laos. They were a crucial part of the war and many died
courageously as our allies. They have been left with a fate of genocide
much like the killing fields of Cambodia, which continues to this day.
The political attitude of U.S. Congress is summed up in a quote from
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, (D-N. Y.) "to be an enemy of the United
Stated can be unpleasant. But to be a friend of the United Sates can be
Communist forces in Vietnam lost every single battle of substance in
which they engaged American combat forces! The Reds were often
depressed, confused, hurt and fearful. They suffered mass defections...
which were hidden from us at the time but were admitted years later. In
their disastrous 1972 invasion effort from the North, the alien
Communist North Vietnamese lost 50,000 men killed in just 120 days --
with another 50,000 wounded! Their troops became so terrified that Red
officers had to chain them inside Russian-supplied tanks and threaten to
shoot them if they tried to cut the chains and run away. Despite these
threats, dozens of Communist tank-men did exactly that... abandoning
their Russian tanks right on the highways with the motors still running
and fleeing for their lives.
1968 Tet offensive was also an absolute disaster for the Reds. They had
confidently expected the People of South Vietnam to rise up in general
revolution and join them. Instead the people pointed out Vietcong
terrorists to American and South Vietnamese soldiers... so that an
underground the Reds had spent years putting in place was wiped out in a
matter of just a few days. Yet America's television and newspaper
reporters lied to the american people even while the citizens of south
vietnam were celebrating their total victory over the reds at tet in
1968, the American media was telling us that it was a smashing communist
victory. As a result, American popular opinion turned against the war.
We quit and went home. It was a war American G. I.'s and South
Vietnamese ARVN actually won by early 1973 ... only to have America's
Congress give it away in 1974 - 1975! (VIETNAM, fall 1988: An Overdue
Tribute: Richard Philip Jennett)
most Americans, the Vietnam war fits almost perfectly Winston
Churchill's famous description of the Soviet Union, "Riddles wrapped in
a mystery inside an enigma." Many years after American involvement in
Vietnam began, after the withdrawal of all U. S. military forces there,
and after the fall of Saigon, the war there truly remains an enigma- "a
perplexing, baffling or seemingly inexplicable matter." Perplexing and
baffling it may be, but I do not believe that it is inexplicable. After
much reading and listening to the ones that were close to it, I realize
there are many complexities that made up Vietnam; it was unique. Within
the individual stories and truths are the keys to unlock the enigma. To
a remarkable degree the Vietnam war was time and space dependent.
truth of an American Army advisor in the Mekong Delta in 1958 was not
the truth of a Marine rifleman on the DMZ in 1968. And neither of these
truths were that of the river rats of the brown-water Navy, the pilots
dodging SAMs in the skies over Hanoi, or of the nurses struggling to
save lives in an Evacuation Hospital. There are literally millions of
truths about the Vietnam war, for over three million American soldiers,
sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen have served in the
Southeast Asia theater from 1964 to 1975 alone, two million five hundred
and ninety four thousand within Vietnam itself. Each of these truths
form a piece of the Vietnam puzzle. General Fred C. Weyand, the last
American commander in Vietnam, said "the fighting abilities of the
American servicemen in Vietnam were comparable to those he served with
in World War II and Korea, especially in light of the Tet offensive of
1968." (VIETNAM, Premiere Issue, 1988: Editorial - Col Harry G. Summers,
after story give accounts of remarkable heroics of those who risked
their lives for others. Our sons...our brothers...our friends, their
lives touched us all, I would consider it almost criminal to overlook
their sacrifice because of deceitful lies. "That others may live" was
the motto and daily standard for the Air Force's Rescue Service. It is a
heroic and noble ideal and one particularly American in character: The
U.S. fighting man is a member of a team and owes his loyalty to that
team. Yet, the team also owes loyalty to that single individual. No more
clearly was this evident than in the mission of the Air Force's Air
Rescue Service, whose mission was so succinctly summed up in this motto:
"That others may live."
important fact of the Vietnam war, often neglected, is that it was
America's first truly integrated war. Women have fought in all of
America's wars, unofficially in early wars and as official members of
the Armed Services since 1901 when the Army Nurse Corps was founded.
More than 265,000 women served in the military during the Vietnam era,
and over 8,000 in Vietnam itself. There were 8 women killed and many
wounded. The inclusion of a statue of an Army nurse as part of the
Vietnam war memorial in Washington D. C., has stirred up considerable
controversy. However it has come to fruition mainly through the
determination of Diane Carlson Evans, an army nurse in Vietnam during
1968 and 1969.
was also the same for American black service members as well. There is
notable recognition of outstanding black soldiers, sailors, airmen and
marines. However this recognition came at a high price. When the first
ground combat units were deployed to Vietnam, a disproportionate number
of black service members were serving in front-line Army and Marine
infantry units. As a result, they at first suffered a higher percentage
of combat fatalities. In 1967 the armed forces made effort to bring down
the numbers of black casualties, primarily by reducing the percentage of
black soldiers assigned to infantry, armor and cavalry units.
his book "AFTER TET" Ronald Spector says "The reasons for the high
proportion of black casualties had less to do with Pentagon policies or
combat in Vietnam than with the position of blacks in the United States
during the mid-1960's. In a country where racial discrimination and,
often, formal segregation were still widespread, the armed forces
offered blacks, in the words of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,
greater career opportunities than they can find in the civilian
economy.'" There were other factors involved as well and I strongly
recommend the reading of this book. It is probably the best and most
accurate I've come across in trying to understand Vietnam and the many
questions that it raises.
average age of the Vietnam GI was 19.2 years of age, far younger than in
the previous wars, W.W.II average was 26. The Vietnam GI was also more
educated; nearly one-fifth had received some college. However the ones
doing the fighting and dying were never a real cross-section of American
youth. It should be known that early studies of the Vietnam GI being
ill-educated and at the bottom of society were proven wrong. Later
studies showed them to be achievers representing the middle class.
an article of the premiere issue of the magazine "VIETNAM "Colonel Harry
G. Summers, Jr. stated "One of the saddest legacies of the Vietnam War
is the cruel misperception that the American fighting men there did not
measure up to their predecessors in World War II and Korea. Nothing
could be farther from the truth." The last comment in the interview was
from General Weyand, who said "America should have been proud of them
from the start, for they were a remarkable group of young men and women.
Now they're finally beginning to get their due, and it's gratifying to
see the increased public recognition of the dedication, bravery, and
compassion the overwhelming majority of these men and women displayed
while they were serving in Vietnam."
the Civil War it was referred to as "nostalgia," in W.W.I it was "shell
shock," in W.W.II and Korea it was called "battle fatigue." No matter
what you call it, the veterans have an unending link with it,
unfortunately, some have committed suicide to disconnect that link.
talking with Cpl. Ken Davis (1/27 Marines, Co. C, 3rd Platoon), he
mentioned that many things can trigger something in your mind; a smell,
a sound, a taste that instantly transports you back to Vietnam and its
death and destruction. At the bottom of this are angry emotions because
he and his friends put their life on the line and were treated wrongly
while there and then spat upon and called baby killers when they
returned. He often relives the traumatic events and is susceptible to a
response of being thrown back into Vietnam at any given time. This also
indicates how the family is directly hurt as well.
communicating with Ken I was always aware that there was a certain
understanding that I didn't have, it is exclusive for those who were
there and did the fighting. It was difficult for Ken to try and express
it to me, having to relive it and then try to tell it someone who was so
distant from it. This is one of the reasons that some veterans have
isolated themselves. Not only is it difficult to tell their story, but
many cannot and will not understand. Having to live with enormously hard
conditions, death and destruction, they shared a certain intimacy. In
most cases they will never find that intimacy again, even with their
families. These things are more heartfelt and often cannot even be put
into words. There is a story of a soldier in the magazine VIETNAM, Dec.
1993, that tells how he remembers a friend he held dying in his hands.
He was calling for his Mom, and Eddie Robinson cradled him gently and
said "it's okay, Mommy is here." Robinson then said "to this day, I tell
my wife, and she understands it, that I can never be close to her in an
act of love the way I was holding that kid in my arm!"
is often experienced by veterans with PTSD. To this day Ken has been
tormented by my brother's death as if he were responsible. In one of his
letters he asks for our family's forgiveness for not taking better care
of Steve. This seems to be typical for many vets, as if they could have
done something or prevented it. In other wars you went over and came
back with your unit at a slow pace, in the Vietnam war you could go over
alone and back by yourself, with no readjustment time. One day you're in
Vietnam fighting and the next you're back home. Then you were on your
own to contend with the experiences forever written in your memory. Most
family members didn't know how to react, and often treated you in the
same way they remembered you. They were arguing over petty things, while
the vet's mind was occupied with life-altering experiences. So you can
see how it would be easy just to blow-up and try to get away. Friends
would ask ignorant questions that could stir much anger. It was a two
way street however, the vets needed to try and cope while family and
friends needed to understand and accept.
returning vets had a new perspective on America now, having stepped
outside and then back, they had a deeper view of the American dream. The
hypocrisy was now evident in many ways. They were lied to by government,
the VA didn't provide for many, and they felt they were ignored. Many
had built their defenses and perceived any questions as an assault,
experiencing fear, suspicion and withdrawal within themselves. In his
book The Grunts Charles R. Anderson says "a large number of veterans
came back hating something or someone: the Vietnamese for being so
unfathomable. so generally "fucked up"; American politicians for lying
to them about why they had to go to Vietnam; hippies for "stabbing us in
the back"; and the Joe Blows and their housewives who went about life as
usual while the grunts had been counting off their hours and days in the
paddies and hills."
the devastation of the Vietnam war, then the condemnation from his
country and hearing that his buddies died for nothing the veteran
desperately needed some psychological anchors to rebuild his life. Most
did not find those anchors. Some fell into a period of condemnation,
wandering and rage. I believe this is where the statistics of suicide
and the institutionalized come from. Many are continually being helped
by the love of friends, family and treatment. It will always be a
Top of Page
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Greene, Bob. HOMECOMING: WHEN THE SOLDIERS
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Ballantine, New York, 1981. Scruggs, Jan C.
Joel L. TO HEAL A NATION, THE VIETNAM VETERANS
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MYSTERY INSIDE AN ENIGMA." VIETNAM, Premiere Issue, Summer 1988. _______
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