View Full Version : Vietnam Veterans Day
Coming up to the 50th anniversary of the start of the war in Vietnam - 29 March 2012 is marked as Vietnam Veterans Day (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/29/presidential-proclamation-vietnam-veterans-day).
Simple math informs us that the youngest at the end (being 18) would now be just about 57 years old. Very few still serving.
The human cost of that war was too great on all sides and the wounds to the National psyche of the US are yet to fully heal.
May I be so bold as to suggest that in keeping with the spirit of Vietnam Veterans Day this thread be dedicated (and limited) to:
* the memory of the fallen, and
* also in honour of the surviving veterans, and
* things positive that came out of that war.
(Here I request that a moderator take responsibility to police this and delete any posts which are not made in accordance with and in the sprit of the above.)
I end with - as a dedication to the fallen - the last part of the lyrics of the song 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables' from the show 'Les Miserables':
Oh my friends, my friends forgive me
That I live and you are gone.
There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.
Phantom faces at the window.
Phantom shadows on the floor.
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more.
Oh my friends, my friends, don't ask me
What your sacrifice was for
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more
In the midst of that tragic war the best of America came to the fore countless times. One the best was Ed Freeman:
There are few true hero’s in the world. Many are referred to as such but few meet the exacting criteria.
Ed Freeman was one such hero for many reasons. As pilot he saved the lives of soldiers in Vietnam who, without his selfless acts, would have certainly died. Nobody else was there to help them.
He received the Medal of Honor – late because his application missed the statute of limitations which was subsequently changed – for the bravery he showed. His actions were depicted in the recent movie “We Were Soldiers.” He died last August and his death missed mention in mainstream media; bailouts and elections were deemed more important.
It is worth remembering that in our breakneck, celebrity-laced world, that real people do great things. Ed Freeman is one such person. RIP.
Freeman's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
Captain Ed W. Freeman, United States Army, distinguished himself by numerous acts of conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary intrepidity on 14 November 1965 while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). As a flight leader and second in command of a 16-helicopter lift unit, he supported a heavily engaged American infantry battalion at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The unit was almost out of ammunition after taking some of the heaviest casualties of the war, fighting off a relentless attack from a highly motivated, heavily armed enemy force. When the infantry commander closed the helicopter landing zone due to intense direct enemy fire, Captain Freeman risked his own life by flying his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire time after time, delivering critically needed ammunition, water and medical supplies to the besieged battalion. His flights had a direct impact on the battle's outcome by providing the engaged units with timely supplies of ammunition critical to their survival, without which they would almost surely have gone down, with much greater loss of life. After medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the area due to intense enemy fire, Captain Freeman flew 14 separate rescue missions, providing life-saving evacuation of an estimated 30 seriously wounded soldiers -- some of whom would not have survived had he not acted. All flights were made into a small emergency landing zone within 100 to 200 meters of the defensive perimeter where heavily committed units were perilously holding off the attacking elements. Captain Freeman's selfless acts of great valor, extraordinary perseverance and intrepidity were far above and beyond the call of duty or mission and set a superb example of leadership and courage for all of his peers. Captain Freeman's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.
From the Butler Report (http://www.butlerreport.com/News/BRNews_Freeman.html)
04-01-2012, 07:05 PM
One positive outcome of the Vietnam War: enough time was bought in which to shore up Thailand in the face of its Communist insurgency, and that country plus Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, all of which also faced Communist insurgencies, did not fall to Communism. This is not merely theoretical: All of those people lived and live today at a level of prosperity and social cohesion not to be seen in (post-)Communist countries. The legacy of Communism still plagues the people of Vietnam to this day, for instance. You may not see it on your holiday, but if you penetrate the society you will begin to see the nastiness.
The foregoing was a factor in winning the Cold War.
I think we tend to forget that.
04-01-2012, 07:57 PM
Dave Cavis (http://www.virtualwall.org/dc/CavisDJ01a.htm), KIA 22 Feb 1968 (Binh Duong Province):
JMA: The Mar-Apr 2012 issue of The VVA Veteran (http://www.vva.org/veteran.html) (Vietnam Veterans of America), pp.33-34, has this article, "War, Continued ... Vietnam Veterans in the Rhodesian Bush War". Go to that issue's Digital Edition (http://digitaledition.qwinc.com/publication/?i=103936) and click on Page 1 (dropdown page menu - click on Page 32 - Page 33) - & Zoom.
"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company B, 5th Battalion (Airmobile), 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 1 December 1966. Entered service at: Seattle, Wash. Born: 27 April 1946, Venice, Italy. G.O. No.: 12, 3 April 1968.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. Albanese's platoon, while advancing through densely covered terrain to establish a blocking position, received intense automatic weapons fire from close range. As other members maneuvered to assault the enemy position, Pfc. Albanese was ordered to provide security for the left flank of the platoon. Suddenly, the left flank received fire from enemy located in a well-concealed ditch. Realizing the imminent danger to his comrades from this fire, Pfc. Albanese fixed his bayonet and moved aggressively into the ditch. His action silenced the sniper fire, enabling the platoon to resume movement toward the main enemy position. As the platoon continued to advance, the sound of heavy firing emanated from the left flank from a pitched battle that ensued in the ditch which Pfc. Albanese had entered. The ditch was actually a well-organized complex of enemy defenses designed to bring devastating flanking fire on the forces attacking the main position. Pfc. Albanese, disregarding the danger to himself, advanced 100 meters along the trench and killed 6 of the snipers, who were armed with automatic weapons. Having exhausted his ammunition, Pfc. Albanese was mortally wounded when he engaged and killed 2 more enemy soldiers in fierce hand-to-hand combat. His unparalleled actions saved the lives of many members of his platoon who otherwise would have fallen to the sniper fire from the ditch, and enabled his platoon to successfully advance against an enemy force of overwhelming numerical superiority. Pfc. Albanese's extraordinary heroism and supreme dedication to his comrades were commensurate with the finest traditions of the military service and remain a tribute to himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Australian Involvement In The Vietnam War (http://www.rslnsw.org.au/commemoration/heritage/the-vietnam-war)
1962 - 1975
Men awarded the Victoria Cross: 4
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to
CLAUSEN, RAYMOND M.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263, Marine Aircraft Croup 16, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 31 January 1970. Entered service at: New Orleans, La. Born: 14 October 1947, New Orleans, La.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 during operations against enemy forces. Participating in a helicopter rescue mission to extract elements of a platoon which had inadvertently entered a minefield while attacking enemy positions, Pfc. Clausen skillfully guided the helicopter pilot to a landing in an area cleared by 1 of several mine explosions. With 11 marines wounded, 1 dead, and the remaining 8 marines holding their positions for fear of detonating other mines, Pfc. Clausen quickly leaped from the helicopter and, in the face of enemy fire, moved across the extremely hazardous mineladen area to assist in carrying casualties to the waiting helicopter and in placing them aboard. Despite the ever-present threat of further mine explosions, he continued his valiant efforts, leaving the comparatively safe area of the helicopter on 6 separate occasions to carry out his rescue efforts. On 1 occasion while he was carrying 1 of the wounded, another mine detonated, killing a corpsman and wounding 3 other men. Only when he was certain that all marines were safely aboard did he signal the pilot to lift the helicopter. By the courageous, determined and inspiring efforts in the face of the utmost danger, Pfc. Clausen upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the U.S. Naval Service.
9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era (5 August 1965-7 May 1975)
8,744,000 personnel were on active duty during the war (5 August 1964-28
3,403,100 (including 514,300 offshore) personnel served in the SE Asia
Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand and sailors
in adjacent South China Sea waters).
2,594,000 personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam
( I January 1965 - 28 March 1973)
Another 50,000 men served in Vietnam between 1960 and 1964
Of the 2.6 million, between 1 and 1.6 million (40-60%) either fought in
combat, provided close combat support or were at least fairly regularly
exposed to enemy attack.
7,484 women served in Vietnam, of whom 6,250 or 83.5% were nurses.
Peak troop strength in Vietnam was 543,482, on 30 April 1969.
Hostile deaths: 47,359
Non-hostile deaths: 10,797
Total: 58,156 (including men formerly classified as MIA and Mayaguez casualties).
Highest state death rate: West Virginia--84.1. (The national average death rate for males in 1970 was 58.9 per 100,000).
WIA: 303,704 - 153,329 required hospitalization, 50,375 who did not.
Severely disabled: 75,000, 23,214 were classified 100% disabled. 5,283 lost
limbs, 1,081 sustained multiple amputations. Amputation or crippling wounds to the lower extremities were 300% higher than in WWII and 70% higher than in Korea. Multiple amputations occurred at the rate of 18.4% compared to 5.7% in WWII.
POW: 766, of whom 114 died in captivity.
Draftees vs. volunteers: 25% (648,500) of total forces in country were draftees. (66% of U.S. armed forces members were drafted during WWII)
Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam.
Reservists KIA: 5,977
National Guard: 6,140 served; 101 died.
( source (http://www.mrfa.org/vnstats.htm) )
'Lest We Forget'
04-04-2012, 10:00 AM
The Army of the Republic of Vietnam ARVN lost about 266,000 killed from 1959 through 1975. R.J. Rummel's range was 216,000 at the low end and 316,000 at the high end. Lewy, from US Department of Defense's document, report ARVN suffered 220,357 killed from 1965 through 1974. A PBS estimate was a quarter of a million men killed in action.
Rummel's review of the various data led to a mid-level estimate of 843,000 civilian deaths in both North and South Vietnam. The detailed Figures are not complete, but the mid-level R.J. Rummel estimates are that around 391,000 South Vietnamese civilians died. Another 643,000 died as the communist North Vietnamese consolidated power after their victory in 1975. Rummel's low-level estimate was 361,000 South Vietnamese civilians and his high-estimate was 720,000.
According to the government in Hanoi, 1,100,000 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong military personnel died during the Vietnam War Rummel reviewed the many casualty data sets, and this number is in keeping with his mid-level estimate of 1,011,000 North Vietnamese combatant deaths. He further calculated a mid-level estimate of 251,000 Viet Cong military deaths.
04-04-2012, 02:41 PM
"...the mid-level R.J. Rummel estimates are that around 391,000 South Vietnamese civilians died. Another 643,000 died as the communist North Vietnamese consolidated power after their victory in 1975..."Almost twice as many in the 'post war' celebration. :rolleyes:
Lest we forget... :wry:
Ronnie Ray-guns did well with this one (http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/ronaldreaganvietnammemorial.html)...
V-Day Ceremony Address at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial
delivered 11 November 1988, Washington D.C.
Before I begin, let me take a moment to congratulate the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the other distinguished guests without whom the construction and operation of this memorial would not have been possible. Let me also say that America is grateful to the hundreds of Vietnam veterans who, when I asked them to join my Administration, did so, and have and are serving our nation so proudly. For your devotion to America, I salute you.
We're gathered today, just as we have gathered before, to remember those who served, those who fought, and those who -- those still missing, and those who gave their last full measure of devotion for our country. We're gathered at a monument on which the names of our fallen friends and loved ones are engraved, and with crosses instead of diamonds beside them, the names of those whose fate we do not yet know. One of those who fell wrote, shortly before his death, these words: "Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind."
Well, today, Veterans Day, as we do every year, we take that moment to embrace the gentle heroes of Vietnam and of all our wars. We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause.
I'm not speaking provocatively here. Unlike the other wars of this century, of course, there were deep divisions about the wisdom and rightness of the Vietnam war. Both sides spoke with honesty and fervor. And what more can we ask in our democracy? And yet after more than a decade of desperate boat people, after the killing fields of Cambodia, after all that has happened in that unhappy part of the world, who can doubt that the cause for which our men fought was just? It was, after all, however imperfectly pursued, the cause of freedom; and they showed uncommon courage in its service. Perhaps at this late date we can all agree that we've learned one lesson: that young Americans must never again be sent to fight and die unless we are prepared to let them win.
But -- But -- But beyond that, we remember today that all our gentle heroes of Vietnam have given us a lesson in something more: a lesson in living love. Yes, for all of them, those who came back and those who did not, their love for their families lives. Their love for their buddies on the battlefields and friends back home lives. Their love of their country lives.
This memorial has become a monument to that living love. The thousands who come to see the names testify to a love that endures. The messages and mementos they leave speak with a whispering voice that passes gently through the surrounding trees and to out across the breast of our peaceful nation: a childhood teddy bear, a photograph of the son or daughter born too late to know his or her father, a battle ribbon, a note -- there are so many of these, and all are testimony to our living love for them. And our nation itself is testimony to the love our veterans have had for it and for us. Our liberties, our values, all for which America stands is safe today because brave men and women have been ready to face the fire at freedom's front. And we thank God for them.
Yes, gentle heroes and living love and our memories of a time when we faced great divisions here at home. And yet if this place recalls all this, both sweet and sad, it also reminds us of a great and profound truth about our nation: that from all our divisions we have always eventually emerged strengthened. Perhaps we are finding that new strength today, and if so, much of it comes from the forgiveness and healing love that our Vietnam veterans have shown.
For too long a time, they stood in a chill wind, as if on a winter night's watch. And in that night, their deeds spoke to us, but we knew them not. And their voices called to us, but we heard them not. Yet in this land that God has blessed, the dawn always at last follows the dark, and now morning has come. The night is over. We see these men and know them once again -- and know how much we owe them, how much they've given us, and how much we can never fully repay. And not just as individuals but as a nation, we say we love you.
These -- These days, we show our love in many ways -- some of it through the Government. We now fly the POW - MIA flag at this memorial on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and POW - MIA Recognition Day. This is a small gesture, but a significant one. America also keeps a vigil for those who have not yet returned. We have negotiated with the Vietnamese to bring our nation's sons home, and for the first time to have joint teams investigating remote areas of Vietnam that might shed light on the fate of those we list as missing. In Laos, we have also begun a new round of surveys and excavations of crash sites. And we have told Hanoi that it must prove to the American people through its cooperation whether men are still being held against their will in Indochina. Otherwise we will assume some are, and we will do everything we can to find them.
Here at home, a new Department of Veterans Affairs and extended veterans benefits are merely outward and visible signs of an inward and invisible grace that has come to our land. Vietnam service is once more universally recognized as a badge of pride. Four years ago, I noted that this healing had begun and that I hoped that before my days as Commander in Chief were over it would be completed. Well, now as I approach the end of my service and I see Vietnam veterans take their rightful place among America's heroes, it appears to me that we have healed. And what can I say to our Vietnam veterans but: Welcome home.
Now before I go, as have so many others, Nancy and I wanted to leave a note at the wall. And if I may read it to you before doing so, we will put this note here before we leave:
"Our young friends -- yes, young friends, for in our hearts you will always be young, full of the love that is youth, love of life, love of joy, love of country -- you fought for your country and for its safety and for the freedom of others with strength and courage. We love you for it. We honor you. And we have faith that, as He does all His sacred children, the Lord will bless you and keep you, the Lord will make His face to shine upon you and give you peace, now and forever more."
Thank you all, and God bless you.
Dedication of the Michigan Vietnam Monument
Following are Peter C. Lemon's remarks at the dedication of the Michigan Vietnam Monument on Veteran's Day, November 11, 2001.
On behalf of my unit, E Company (RECON) , 2nd of the 8th, First Calvary Division, and Casey Waller, Nathan Mann, and Brent Street, the three comrades that I lost during the battle for which I received the Medal of Honor, I am humbled to be here today. Thank you very much for having me.
Since the birth of our nation, 1776, not a single generation of Americans have been spared the responsibility of defending freedom in the name of liberty. We have many of those veterans here today. Since it is Armistice Day–a day of peace–what we now call Veterans Day, I think we should acknowledge all veterans. We have many with us today. Veterans would you please stand so we can acknowledge your service to our country in the name of freedom. [applause]
Folks, take a look around you. It has to make you very proud.
Now if you could, in spirit, we have two and a half million service men and women in over 80 nations in this world representing us and protecting our freedoms. We have to be concerned with their welfare, but also very concerned with those that are serving in Afghanistan. So in spirit, let's give them a round of applause. Believe me, they will hear us across this world. [applause]
In 1958, the first small American unit visited the land known as Vietnam. It wasn't until about 1975 that the last troops assisted the Vietnamese evacuation process. Over 9 million people served in Vietnam, and more than 58,000 lost their lives or are missing in action. Of the 402,000 who served from Michigan, 2,654 died or missing in action. Many died after the war of wounds; or the effects of Agent Orange; or PTSD. Some suffer to this day. Most have gone on to be productive citizens. Today we honor Michigan’s Vietnam veterans by celebrating their patriotism and their sacrifice.
It's always been popular throughout our nation's short history to take wars and somehow, for prosperity sake, condense them down into some catchy title or memorable synopsis. World War I was known as, "The War to End all Wars." It wasn't. Twenty-three years after the doughboys returned home, a new generation of Americans were confronted by the likes of Normandy, Guadalcanel, and Hiroshima. The veterans of that war had become known as the "Greatest Generation," which is a fitting tribute to the men and women who may well have saved our world.
Then it was the "Forgotten War." The memories of Inchong and the Chos I n Reservoir, where in Korea thousands lost their lives. Their borders, we protect to this day.
Vietnam was not a popular war, and we as a nation have struggled for twenty-five years to define Vietnam. I've heard it stated: "the war we lost." Have you heard that? Others have hailed it: "the wasted effort." Have you heard that? But no one -- no one -- has put the Vietnam War into context that really defines this chapter in our nation's history. Today we have the opportunity to understand and embrace that responsibility. If we do it now, then all those we memorialize here today have not died or served in vain.
I truly believe that the Vietnam experience has shaped our nation and the world more than most wars in our nation's history. Let me put it into perspective. The experience has forged the decisions of nine presidents -- nine. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy sent the first troops to Vietnam. President Johnson knew that in his heart he could not succeed, as he had intended in Vietnam, but that provided him motivation. It provided him the motivation to succeed here at home, with regard to minority equal rights. First Amendment Rights were used to protest the Vietnam War, but these rights were also used by the media to film the war so that it could be brought into millions of homes and watched during dinner. The Federal Elections Commission was developed out of the Watergate Scandal, to make politicians accountable to us, the citizens of this great country. The pro-Vietnam, California Governor, now President Reagan, came to our nation as though he was in the last period of a football game, determined to rally our nation, to overcome the Cold War and the Soviet block, which we were able to do. President Bush, Sr., along with General Colin Powell, used the history of Vietnam to have a staggering defeat over Iraq. President Clinton sent Pete Peterson as an ambassador to Vietnam. The aftermath of the Vietnam War was the catalyst to dramatically improve Veterans benefits through the Veterans Administration, not only for those who served in Vietnam, but thank God, for all veterans. The current president, George Bush, must and will use the lessons of Vietnam in Afghanistan and fighting terrorism throughout the world.
Whether you are in the chambers of the United States Congress, the halls of the Pentagon, or listening to the news of the day, major decisions always use Vietnam as a reference point. We can't say what would have occurred if we wouldn't have gone into Vietnam. Nor can we say what would have occurred if we now occupied Vietnam. We can't speculate because that's not history. What is history is what I've just described. So how should we take this responsibility and encapsulate the Vietnam War with a historical defining phrase? We need to do it, and do it now.
So humbly, on your behalf, and I hope you allow me to do this, I would like to define it today. And I've chosen "The Defining War." To define means to mark, to identify, to discover, to find meaning. America's Defining War. Through Vietnam, we discovered ourselves. We've given meaning, an identity for which we stand as a nation. It defined us, either directly or indirectly. Either during the war or after the war in terms of strength, compassion, tolerance, patriotism, rights, perseverance, determination, sacrifice, and above all, freedom -- freedom throughout our land and the entire world.
Today, we are being tested with regard to how we define ourselves, and the price we are willing to pay for freedom. The Vietnam War was not our darkest moment. But it's been our nation's guiding light.
In Vietnam, we used to swap stories, if you can remember. We were on the decks of ships, in the bunkers and the chopper pads. We all told our stories and shared our dreams. Dreams of being farmers, teachers, some of us politicians -- not many of us. [laughter], construction workers, working in the factories. Dreams of having wives, babies, grandkids. The American dream of owning our own home or having that muscle car sitting in our driveway. Dreams of coming back to hunt and fish with our best friend. Those of us who came home alive -- at least we got to realize that portion of our dream. These men didn't.
When we shared our dreams back then, everyone supported each other. I believe, as we dedicate this memorial, it is our responsibility to those that didn't make it home to realize our dreams and our children's dreams for them: to pursue our profession, as they would have; to love our family, as they would have; to be a proud American, as they would have, knowing that their service not only contributed to the history of this great nation but defined it as well.
In the honor of these men, our country, yourselves as veterans and Vietnam veterans, you must walk proudly as Michigan's veterans and as veterans of the United States of America.
Now this is not in the program, but I want it to be. If you could picture yourself at the Chosen Reservoir, not only are you up against the enemy, but you're battling the elements of the cold. Those men had to snuggle next to one another to keep themselves warm. And in their honor, and in honor of all veterans, but especially those Vietnam veterans that are on the wall here today, I would like you to keep your neighbor warm by holding their hand right now. Everybody hold somebody's hand. So we're all united. Let's sing "God Bless America." [singing]
Poem by Major Michael Davis O'Donnell, U.S. Army
(Major O'Donnell was listed as MIA while piloting a helicopter on a mission in Cambodia on 24 March 1970. His remains were recovered and interned at Arlington National Cemetery on 16 August 2001.)
If you are able,
save them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.
And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind
04-08-2012, 04:42 PM
(AP) Today, April 30th, marks the 35th Anniversary of the fall of Saigon, when communist North Vietnamese forces drove tanks through the former U.S.-backed capital of South Vietnam, smashing through the Presidential Palace gates. The fall of Saigon marked the official end of the Vietnam War and the decadelong U.S. campaign against communism in Southeast Asia. The conflict claimed some 58,000 American lives and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese.
The war left divisions that would take years to heal as many former South Vietnamese soldiers were sent to Communist re-education camps and hundreds of thousands of their relatives fled the country.
A very moving series of photos
A very moving series of photos
Thank you for posting that link... moving indeed.
The comment from one George Martin is worthy of insertion here:
I am A Vietnam Veteran, but I hid this fact from people for several years after the war, because I was caught up in the National shame of being involved in the War in Vietnam.
I did not want friends to know how I spent a couple years of my life facing my mortality and being involved with what so many protested as an American mistake.
When my own service, the United States Air Force, acted as if we should hide the fact of our involvement by ordering us to not wear our uniforms off base, I was convinced it was a shameful thing I had been involved in, even though it was my country that ordered me and over a million others to go to Southeast Asia and defend something.
I never gave it much thought whether it was right or wrong to fight in that war. My country sent me, and because I was a member of the military I went.
When my country abandoned the South Vietnamese I was ashamed of that. I was ashamed of the way the United States ran helter-skelter from the friends they had promised to support.
I was ashamed at the lack of support our country showed us. We were never given the support that America had given its military throughout history. It was as if it were our fault that things did not go right for this country that had gotten us involved and did not have the resolve to finish what it had started.
It is now forty years after my tours in Vietnam, and somewhere along the way my thinking changed in the way I see my personal involvement.
The pride started creeping into my thinking as we, the Vietnam Veterans, started the movement to get a Memorial, "The Wall". Since Americans and our own government abandoned us, we would pay for and build our own Memorial.
The war protesters, the draft dodgers could go on with their lives after Jimmy Carter gave them amnesty.
So, our lives could go on too, even if we only recognized our accomplishments without support of the American people. I started seeing other Vietnam Veterans as Brothers, and shared what only close brothers could share.
I began also, to think of the war as a test, a rite of passage that my Father's generation went through in World War Two, and my Brother went through in Korea. I know now, that had I not gone to Vietnam when I was called, I would wonder all my life if I had what it takes to be an American, called on to do a duty for my country. I don't have to wonder. I served. I went when called.
I have spoken with many men since the war, who did not serve in the military. Many say they wished they had gone. They feel a part of their life passed by while they watched from the sidelines.
They will carry with them to the grave an unanswered question that I was fortunate enough to have answered. Would I serve if called by my country? I did and I survived, and now I walk with my head held high.
When I meet other Vietnam Veterans I immediately feel a bond, a Brotherhood that only we, who have been there, can understand. My life would be missing a large part if I did not have this comradeship with my fellow Veterans.
Some say, "it's been over forty years ago, forget about it." I am here to tell you that you can not forget the defining episode in your life that sets you apart from others.
How can you forget something as life changing an experience as the War in Vietnam was for so many American men?
Some who are old enough to remember where they were and what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was shot, or when Martin Luther King was shot can no more forget that, than a Vietnam Veteran can forget about the combat in which he was involved so long ago.
How can someone who did not experience it, and does'nt know if they would have gone had they been called, tell Veterans to get over it and forget it?
I wore the uniform of The United States Air Force for 26 years. I went when called to serve in Vietnam For that I stand tall! I am proud. I am a Vietnam Veteran!
George Martin, Da Nang RVN
First Tour -1967 - 1968
Second Tour - 1969 - 1970
George is correct... there is a bond between those who have served together in battle that only we can understand.
God bless the Vietnam Veterans!
I would like to honour the 58,156 US soldiers who were KIA/MIA in Vietnam in my own humble way.
They say to us:
I did my duty, I paid the supreme price,
I pray you'll remember my sacrifice,
My life was short, I did my best,
God grant me peace in my eternal rest
To which we reply:
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
(first quote unknown, second quote from: Laurence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen")
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