I belong to a small private Website dedicated to Governor Sarah Palin, http://americawantssarah.ning.com (AWS). In it I am a member of a group named ‘Brotherhood 2’ (BH2). This group is dedicated to certain topics, one of which is to work for destroying completely any lingering prejudice against Vietnam Vets. The question has arisen, ‘Is this possible’? I think it is, but not particularly and not in isolation.
The destruction can be accomplished if we include it in a movement already occurring in America to change some ugly aspects of our country, restoring her to her former greatness and beauty. Most of us in sites like AWS concentrate on political and governmental alterations that are needed. With many of these I agree. But there are cultural changes that are necessary as well. My list follows of the worst of these in my view. I am certain the reader will be able to add many more.
1.) Education. I want our children to be able to read, write, calculate, think, and have basic knowledge when they leave school. The situation right now is dire. Let me give you an example. For a while I had a side job of performing physical examinations of people applying for New York State disability. Within weeks two similar men came to me for this. The following conversation was had with each, both 18-year-old white males. Here is how it went: Why are you here? What is your disability? Cannot read. Have you been in school? Yes. High school? Yes. Did you graduate? Yes. Was it an academic high school? Yes. Did you get a diploma? Yes. Did the school know you could not read? Yes. And they gave you a diploma anyway? Yes. And now you want disability for life because of this, that you cannot read? Yes. Get out of my office right now. Go to a bookstore and buy a book on teaching yourself to read. Have someone get you started. You should be ashamed of yourself. Disability denied.
2.) Religion. In my faith (Episcopalian) a Presiding Bishop (Head of the USA Church) was recently ordained. In her ordination address she spoke at length of feeding people. She made few mentions of Jesus, God, or religion. My reaction to this speech was: Your Grace, I thought McDonalds did a pretty good job feeding people. I do not see it able to lead services on Sunday, however. What about the church?
3.) Music. Rap is not music. Punk rock is not music. In the concert hall plunking various randomly selected keys on a piano ‘prepared’ with thumbtacks stuck into the strings is not music. Are you kidding me?
4.) Art. A Crucifix stuck in a bottle of urine is not art. Smearing pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary with feces is not art. These ‘artistic expressions’ should be dumped in a garbage can, not displayed anywhere.
5.) Architecture. Buildings that are giant Wheaties boxes without the printing are boring. Do architects get paid for this lack of talented expression? Why?
Many Americans want these cultural horrors and others changed along with the political alterations advocated by Governor Palin and leaders like her.
But there is an intermediate area between politics and art where bad things need rectifying as well. In my view, chief among them is our attitude towards our service men and women who fought in the Vietnam War. What we did to these Vets was a national sin, a national disgrace. The country has already intuited this because it is treating those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan with the respect and honor they deserve.
This movement of changing America back to its magnificent self is slow but real. Witness the prominence of Governor Palin and Representative Bachmann, the sites like AWS, the groups like BH2. But the movement cannot just go forward. It has to regress to rectify the abhorrent treatment of the Vietnam Vets that they experienced when they came home. They were spat upon (literally), derided, mocked, employment was denied them. In every possible way they were abused. Some had their lives darkened forever because of this national rage. So the movement will have to do what it can to erase this mistreatment and treat the damage done to these warriors. Some of us are forming a group tentatively named, ‘Asking Forgiveness’. Asking Forgiveness of the Vets for the obloquy heaped on them. I believe we can work at this plea for forgiveness as part of the movement to restore America to its former greatness. Whether in this new group, Asking Forgiveness, or simply in day-to-day utterances of us all we can start the process. As in obtaining forgiveness of any sin on a personal level–I must be sorry for what I did, I must restore what I destroyed to the best of ability, I must seriously try not to repeat the sin in the future–I believe America must follow these admonitions in asking forgiveness of the Vietnam Vets. The country is already following the third one, as witnessed by our treatment of the veterans from recent wars, as I pointed out. Now we have to go back to admonitions one and two: Experience sorrow, and treat the wounds the country has caused. Like the movement in which this religious experience is embedded movement will be slow towards accomplishing the cleansing of the terrible besmirching that was heaped on these people. But it can be accomplished: We can once and for all destroy any lingering prejudice against Vietnam Vets. Both they and we will be purified when we do.
- Comment by Jack Keel 4 hours ago
- Debrah is my personal nurse Dick. you bet I love her!!!
- Comment by Dick Lanham 5 hours ago
- Delete CommentMy thanks are to you debrah~ for all of the great posts on BH2, your loyalty to the US, and your faithfulness to our service men and women. I should bet Jack feels the same way. Best, Dick
- Comment by debrah~ 8 hours ago
- I thank both of you gentlemen for bringing this forth. We can never again forget our military or treat our soldiers the way our Vietnam soldiers were treated.
- Comment by Dick Lanham 11 hours ago
- Delete CommentI wept, again, at what you went through, Jack, both there and here. Wept in shame and in sorrow. I think the country has learned a lesson, to treat our current warriors as the saviors they are. But my heart is still sore at what happened to you and to your generation of servicemen. Thank you for your kind comments. All my best always, Dick
- Comment by Jack Keel 16 hours ago
I want to first to thank Dick for his wholehearted effort to rectify the wrongs done to my brothers and sisters in arms, particularly those serving right now. Thank you Dick, you are a man amongst men and a true patriot.The fact that I served in Vietnam as a support soldier for the Army did not shield me from the harsh realities of those who were pursuing the enemy aggessively, they sought the enemy, engaged him and won the battles. Our running around out there brought us under intense scrutiny by that same enemy, the difference being we didn’t go out of our way to engage him, the enemy did that for us.
For both the combatant and the non combatant who saw war, all we wanted was to be accepted back as fellow countrymen afterward. We were denied any valor, we were openly shunned by society, by our former friends and yes by our own families.
Not so much for the horrible things that happen in war but for all the failures of the command structure from the commander in chief on down to company level grade officers. Mistakes were made in tactics and rules of engagement. Progress was being measured in body counts, not strategic points taken and held.
The day to day dictates from the white house overruled any good judgement from the general officers, the pussilanimous joint chiefs and their fear of having the Soviet Union or China escalate the battle clouded their judgement.
Both of those protagonists were directly supporting and often had their own troops in Vietnam engaging in the North Vietnamese battles as ‘advisors’.
Conventional training methods were applied to a guerilla war, that put the enemy at an advantage, it was only after using their tactics that the tables were turned and we became the hunter rather than the hunted. Loose fiscal policy and a corrupt South Vietnamese government led to frustration and further American engagement.
I really can’t blame the South Vietnamese government totally, hell they were getting mixed signals from at least three different levels of American government.
Allied relationships were a bit tarnished with the assassination of President Diem and later President Kennedy, an inauspicious beginning for both countries.
As soldiers we were ‘guests’ of the Vietnamese people, then we were expected to both protect and to kill those people.
They wore no uniform, carried no identification to identify them as friend or foe. Some irregulars indeed wore uniforms but seldom during the day were they seen. The North was diciplined, uniformed and very dangerous.
Our patrols were sent out to ‘seek and destroy’ the enemy, those poor souls were often the victims of booby traps and ambushes without ever seeing the enemy who hit them and simply disappeared. Their bodies stacked up nevertheless and they were exploited by the duplicitous news media, the same media that our enemy monitored. Those tactics wore on our minds and Americans retaliated harshly at suspected enemy, if it looked or acted like the enemy it must be. Such tactics with our casualties mounting led to not taking chances, any movement out of the ordinary signaled an impending attack on Americans and resulted in agressive retaliatory actions.
Unless you were in the line of fire you have no idea of the mental strain to be the bait on search and destroy missions, and that is just what you were, bait, rambling around until you bumped into the enemy and took multiple casualties for your effort. That hardens you to the point that it is better to give than receive.
War is a kill or be killed proposition, the Marquess of Queensberry rules do not apply to life and death decisions, the armchair pundits don’t understand and never will.
Upon arrival home from duty we were often at the end of our commitment and simply released from active duty into the society from which we’d came, unprepared for the hostility and rejection. With physical and mental scars we were the pariahs of society, unable to get work from employers, many of us went back to school for our secondary educations, once again we were in enemy territory. Campuses and classroms were very unfriendly and unkind to veterans, we tried to look and act like normal people, but most vets can spot another in a crowd, their bearing and language were a dead giveaway, it gave us away to the other students.
I can only speak of my own experiences in school, only two of us in my class were Viet Vets, our identification as training under the GI Bill declared us to all our classmates. We were surrounded but isolated, thoughtless questions were asked that were too personal and too painful to answer, I withdrew to that little place in the mind where nothing gets out, so did Ernie, my buddy. I have been bluntly asked if i took a life and will answer here, it is between me and my maker because I surely tried.
The draft was still going on and so was the war, most of the classmates we had were there on a deferrment to avoid being drafted, then the system was changed to the lottery, one kid got such a low number that he asked what should I do? My response was go to the Air Force recruiter and see if you can get in, don’t wait for them to draft you.
At the time draftees went into both the Army and the Marines, he was accepted by the Air Force and went. Even though we have moved on, the legacy of that war still follows and haunts us. All I ask is for the current warriors to never be treated as less than second class citizens.
Thank you so much Dick, and AWS for giving us the platform to air these issues.
God bless and protect America and it’s warriors.
- Comment by Dick Lanham 22 hours ago
- Delete Comment
Facts About the Vietnam War, Final Thoughts
1.) This will be the last post here by me in this series.
2.) Most likely no one reading it ever needed the insight of the series in the first place: That America acted malevolently towards our veterans of the Vietnam War, and that we as a nation must earn the forgiveness of those men and women whom we so viciously mistreated.
3.) If there is a person who does not understand that, perhaps he might consider applying for a file clerk’s position in George Soro’s office.
4.) My stopping should not be interpreted that I believe the job is over.
5.) It will not be finished in my lifetime.
6.) It may never be finished, unfortunately.
7.) Clearly, the mistake America made in its depraved action was to confuse the war with the warrior.
8.) To me, there was and is no question that the Viet Nam War was a mistake from beginning to end.
9.) It was largely based on an error in logic of John Foster Dulles.
10.) For this fallacy, 50,000 Americans died.
11.) I wonder where Dulles went to school.
12.) No matter where that was, I wonder what he studied. ?Ballet for beginners.
13.) His reasoning eventually informed the strategy of LBJ, who used to hold conferences with his staff in the bathroom while he had a bowel movement.
14.) Surely, this must take the prize for the most tasteless arrogance in American history.
15.) Equally arrogant was his determinations of which targets to bomb, what harbors to mine, etc.
16.) That would be equal to me telling a thoracic surgeon where to put the sutures in a heart-lung transplant.
17.) But the Vietnam War was only one in a series of military blunders of the country in recent decades.
18.) George H. W. stopping at the city limits of Baghdad in the Kuwait War was another.
19.) Why was he protecting Saddam Hussein? So he could gas a few more Kurds?
20.) Although this does not seem to be discussed much, had George H. W. killed Saddam then, there never could have been a thought later that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. That is to say, there never would have been a reason for George W. Bush to invade Iraq in the Second Gulf War.
21.) And Afghanistan. Had we invaded it on 10/11, that would have made sense.
22.) As to the objection that a war then and there meant we should have had to fight on two fronts, well, we did that pretty nicely in WWII. Not only on two fronts—against Germany and Japan—but also against Italy and various other lesser members of the Axis.
23.) But we procrastinated in Afghanistan. Years later we got serious. Years later we are still there. For what? Unless we make Afghanistan the 51stState (now that is a bizarre thought), as soon as we leave, and we shall have to leave sometime, the terrorists that we chased out of the country, and that are the stated reason for our being there in the first place, will hop on the next plane for Kabul, from whatever slum they occupy in Somalia or Yemen.
24.) Having said all this is not to indicate that I am not against war.
25.) If a country invades or otherwise harms us, most certainly we should defend ourselves.
26.) But we should do so as renowned strategists (like Sherman and Patton) believe.
27.) If the enemy drops a 100-pound bomb on us, we should drop a 5-ton bomb on him.
28.) For every combatant he fields, we should counter with 100 American warriors.
29.) The duration of the war should be thought of in terms of days or weeks, not years.
30.) Centuries ago, Sun Tzu in The Art of War (c. 6th Century BC) observed that civilian populations cannot tolerate drawn-out conflicts. Why have we not learned this ancient lesson?
31.) What about collateral damage? What about women and children of the enemy getting killed?
32.) Well, if the enemy hides behind the skirts of women, as al Quaeda does, women will get killed.
33.) If our armed forces ‘protect the little woman’, as our rules of engagement seem to insist, then we risk the shooter behind the parapet of her dress putting a bullet into one of our boys’ heads.
34.) A double bind, if there ever was one.
35.) But why do women allow their skirts to be shields in the first place?
36.) For that matter, every terrorist has a mother. Why did she not teach him from when he was in diapers that he was not to disrespect her or any other women and should love and protect children not use them as weapons of war?
37.) These women are doing their part to abet the terrorists.
38.) As to children, ask any Viet Nam Veteran whose buddy was killed by a kid with a grenade in his pocket if the death is any different than if an adult sniper had caused it.
39.) No one who had not been in war (as I have not) can possibly imagine what it is like.
40.) But those of us who escaped combat are not fools.
41.) We can see to an extent what war is and what it does. And we can understand that it is the worst activity of life, never to be undertaken without the gravest of reasons.
42.) And it seems that finally the country is learning to distinguish the soldier from the conflict.
43.) Our treatment of veterans of Iraq and of Afghanistan is a whole lot better than what was meted out to the Vietnam Veteran.
44.) We now seem to realize that our service men and women may have the same notions as we do, that the war they are fighting is unnecessary and was avoidable. Nevertheless, they fight. That is their duty. That is what they signed on for. And they do their duty irrespective of private opinions as to the wisdom of it all.
45.) What do the men on the front-line need from us? Support and respect.
46.) What do those in staff headquarters need from us? Support and respect.
47.) What do the nurses in field and other hospitals need? Support and respect.
48.) What does the driver of the 4-star general deserve? Support and respect.
49.) Is this fair, to treat them all equally? In a way, no; but life is not fair.
50.) Besides which one of the first lessons I learned when I was inducted into the Army from the National Guard was this. No matter who you are in service, no matter what your position, if push comes to shove, and we need you to fire a rifle at the enemy, you WILL fire a rifle at him, women excepted. (Not that all of them take the exception.)
51.) However, I think we owe our warriors more than base-line support and respect. Whatever their needs are should be supplied them 3 times over.
52.) Will that cost the country a fortune? Of course it will. So what. They deserve it.
53.) Besides we could save a ton of money, not to mention the lives and limbs of our kids, by not fighting wars launched by those who cannot think straight and directed by the déclassé on toilet seats.
54.) Stopping this series of Facts About the Viet Nam War is not to be interpreted as my giving up trying to earn the forgiveness of that war’s veterans. There are just better ways to spend time and energy in doing so right now. I hope you will keep on seeking their forgiveness, too, in your own way.
55.) Thank you for reading this and the previous posts about this national shame.