The Vietnam War was a tumultuous period in the United States. It began November 1, 1955 and ended April 30, 1975.
Many Americans were against the war and made no secret of their disapproval. Many of proper age who protested somehow managed to avoid the draft and combat, either by luck, or by going to Canada, as did ex-president Bill Clinton. The others were, as John Fogerty wrote in a song, Fortunate Son, those whose families were wealthy enough to provide other options.
Some folks were born to wave the flag/ Ooh, they’re red, white and blue/ And when the band plays “Hail to the Chief”/ Ooh they point the cannon at you/ Lord, It ain’t me, it ain’t me/ I ain’t no senator’s son son/ It ain’t me, it ain’t me/ I ain’t no fortunate one.
Others were older and the draft didn’t affect them. It was the era of the Hippie and their particular ideology of “Free.” They advocated free love, free living in a utopic society.
Anyone who has experienced combat will tell you that our freedom is not free.
The people who were against the war spit on Vietnam vets as they returned home from the battlefront. That was a not the homecoming those who suffered the hell of jungle warfare were expecting as returning warriors.
Perhaps those who blamed our military sons for their participation in war they had no choice but to fight have repented of their actions, perhaps not. Maybe a closer look into the personal history of one vet would give the unrepentant cause for shame.
There was a young man born to a family with an extensive military history. His uncles served in WWII, his father in Korea. However, their legacy of armed service went back even further. The family was comprised of Native Americans, Cherokee and other bloodlines that fall under the name of Cherokee. They had fought in the American Revolution with the colonist rebels and again on the side of the Confederacy. Defending hearth and home ran in their blood, as they were part of the Long Hair Clan, protectors of the Tribe.
He grew up listening to the stories these family members told of combat, of the honor and duty military service entailed. He passed his days playing with little toy soldiers, dreaming of the day he could take his place among those who were called on to defend the country and the Constitution. He never entertained the idea of any other life.
For his eighteenth birthday, Uncle Sam gave him orders to go to Vietnam. His twin brother followed soon after and both were serving in different combat zones. He fought through the jungles, often without proper equipment, food, water or ammunition. He was fighting as Agent Orange was dropped on the jungles to deforest the hiding places for the Viet Cong, or Charlie. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
When he returned to the United States, the army had to bring him and his fellow combat vets into the airport in the dead of night to protect them from those who scorned their sacrifice.
He had difficulty getting any type of job if he admitted to being a Vietnam vet. It was certainly not the homecoming he had envisioned, and times were hard for him.
His leadership example was followed over time by his siblings, both brothers and sisters, to join the Army. All were proud to serve their country with honor, continuing the family legacy of protectors of the country.
Regardless of his treatment by those who preferred to remain ignorant of his personal sacrifice, He returned to military service after a time out to further his education, where he was tapped to participate in Panama and Granada, as these were jungle theaters as well, and completed numerous air jumps into harm’s way during his career.
Now retired from service, he struggles with the after effects of Agent Orange, as do many others with whom he had served. Some of the effects of the insecticide poison are diabetes, birth defects in the children born to Vietnam vets, lung damage, cancer and many other maladies. PTSD was not a byproduct of Agent Orange, but is a mental disease to itself that makes everyday living extremely difficult.
The time for the Vietnam vet to be honored has finally come, but for so many it came too late. Too many died before their due and undying respect was given to them for their time running and fighting through the jungle.
Today, so many stop this man to thank him for his service. That is all very nice and is appreciated, but the nightmares and trauma can never be fully erased, for any of those who returned.
So, as this Veteran’s Day approaches this Wednesday, remember those who paid for the freedoms that are often taken for granted.
Some will be attending services to honor the fallen, some cannot make it, due to debilitating illness or family members of the fallen go in their memory.
Veteran’s Day is not just a bank holiday. It means something so much more and should be given the weight and honor it deserves.