(Title from the song “War” by Edwin Star, 1970)
Last evening I watched the last episode of the series “Vietname in HD,” ….on Amazon Prime videos. I had been intending to watch this production for a while, but each time shied away, because by in large I knew already what I would see. Or so I thought…..turns out I learned a lot, but was left continuing to shake my head at the horrible mistake Washington made in taking us into that quagmire.
I did not go to Vietnam, and I do thank the Creator Power every day for that. I could have, but I think it was solely a matter of timing that kept me Stateside. As I was off to pilot training in the USAF in 1969, the US had begun to pull back as Nixon’s plan was to withdraw most of our forces and hand the war over to the South Vietnamese forces entirely. I quit pilot training (subject of a prior blog post – March 15, 2019) mid-way through the program and at the time fully expected orders for Vietnam, but as I said, with the decision to turn down our involvement, instead I was assigned to a nuclear missile base in North Dakota (a few guys I knew there who had been to Vietnam joked they would go back to get away from Minot…..but I knew they were kidding).
So I have always carried both a “thank God I didn’t have to go” and a sense of some guilt in having not gone. I did not raise my hand then to say “I want to go to Vietnam,” and truthfully that was the last thing I desired at the time. I was in the military voluntarily, home safe, while boys younger than I were being shot and blown to pieces, drafted and cast into the pit of gloom and doom.
While no war should be compared to another, Vietnam was HELL. Each war is totally unique except that human beings suffer in all wars, and it’s usually the younger warriors who bear the brunt, except for civilians who suffer as much or more than combatants……”collateral damage” in “military speak.” In Vietnam our “boys” endured month after month what in other wars might occur over days or a few weeks. Most were draftees, and were ripped from their lives back home and sent to pass through Hell for a year or more. The memorials around the Country attest to the price these men and women paid.
Since the war, so many have continued to suffer in so many ways, mentally, emotionally, physically, financially……and like all our veterans of war, taking their own lives at a rate much higher than the norm. So when you see an older man on the street or corner, with a Vietnam Vet cap or other such identification, believe me, he deserves whatever you can give him……to hell with ads that say don’t help street people! Odds are this man saw things at the age of 19-22 almost daily that would make you vomit on the sidewalk if you witnessed it.
I was one leaders of the anti-war movement in North Texas in the early 2000’s…..and I am much more “proud” of that than my service time. We used to sing the song “War” in our protest marches, to a lot of applause.
If you are not familiar with the various veterans organizations, here are a few links (of various “persuasions”):
Today the only reason I could recommend the military to a young person is if they had very limited “other” choices in life. Apparently very few young Americans are inclined to join, which has many consequences on various levels, mostly bad:
Since Vietnam the US has continued to insert our might into various parts of the world, all in the name of “democracy,” when matter of factly, it is usually only about control of resources or other economic factors that mostly maintain the wealth of the 1% of this Country. Whether it was our little wars in Central America that contributed to the mass influx of those fleeing their homes now, trying to escape the horrors of life there, or the major f_** up of Iraq, resulting in ISIL, and all the other mess of that region, Americans at large need to wake up to Dwight Eisenhower’s caveat about the military-industrial complex…….when weapons are a major industry, they have to be sold and used. See, “Lord of War,” the movie.