Dear Editor: Thirty-five years ago, a chapter in the history of America closed. Her longest war was declared over and 2.8 million American men and women, who served in Southeast Asia, had to deal with a very hostile citizenry. There were no homecoming parades, uniforms were put away and one did not talk about being a Vietnam Veteran. The vast majority (97 percent) settled into productive roles, went back to school, became parents, living as free men in a free society. But were 58,175 killed-in-action, while another 303,000 received Purple Hearts and there are still 1,720 Missing In Action (down from the 2,583 on 5/7/75).
So why honor this day and those who are Vietnam/Vietnam era veterans? Remember, Vietnam was never declared a war. It was a war nobody wanted, in a land nobody knew, fought against a foe nobody recognized and for a cause nobody understood. It was a war that lacked clarity of ends or purpose; and, in the end, it was characteristically not lost, but un-won. The American soldiers of this war were of equal or superior abilities to the soldiers of past wars. The majority were volunteers, better educated, better trained and had a lower battlefield rate of breakdown or desertion than their counterparts of other wars.
The Vietnam War was mostly enduring weeks of expectant waiting, and, at random intervals, conducting vicious manhunts through jungles and swamps, where snipers harassed constantly and booby traps cut them down one by one. The war was without a front, flanks or rear and was fought against a formless enemy who evaporated like the mist, only to materialize in some unexpected place. Most of the time nothing happened, but when it did, it happened instantaneously and without warning. Nameless hills were taken from the enemy and given back. Tet ('68) was a total defeat for the enemy but a political victory for the North Vietnam. America's 605 Prisoners of War were welcomed back as heroes; yet, the average serviceman returned one by one, isolated and confronting a country that never went to war.
We fought World War III, Cold War, from 1947 to December 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell in Germany. The Korean War (1950-53) and the Vietnam War (1964-75) were the two main "battles" under President Truman's Doctrine of "Communist Containment." During the Vietnam War every battle was won. It gave the "Pacific Rim" countries time to develop their own democracies. The lessons learned from the successes and failures of that time frame allowed for the "100 Hour War" of The Persian Gulf War (8/90 - 3/91), as the commanding generals were Vietnam Veterans. The current generation of warriors comes from the Vietnam veterans, and these new veterans are etching their own history.
As a triple amputee (wounded on 5/29/69) of the Vietnam War, I can truthfully say, "I would go back and do it again." We Vietnam veterans, who are still living, must insure that when America's sons and daughters are called upon to serve "In Harm's Way," that they are properly trained, using the state-of-the-art weaponry and with the Rules of Engagement that allow them to kill the enemy, not be tried for alleged "political correct" war crimes, and brought home as the heroes they are. We must insure that if America has enough money to fight a war, it had better have enough money to take care of the warrior and his/her family. We must insure that our remaining 1,720 military personnel, in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, who are Missing In Action are accounted for. We must get into the "classrooms" of America's education system and share with the students that we performed honorable service during trying times; and, that we won the Vietnam War, only to have the spineless Congress lose it.
To all Vietnam veterans, and their families, thank you for your service in/during the Vietnam War. Understand, when we Vietnam Veterans put up America's Vietnam Wall (11/11/82), we told the world that we were proud of our service and ready to tackle life head-on.
Stay proud, join our veterans' organizations, attend reunions of your brothers and help America understand freedom isn't free You are a great resource in assuring America's future; after all, you have earned the new title "right wing extremist."
"Wolfhound," 25th ID
Director of Veteran's
Services, Rockdale County