Various states have begun to remember their own Vietnam veterans and to have special recognitions to honor their service. In 2012, Missouri’s General Assembly passed HB 1128. It was signed into law by Governor Nixon and designated March 30 of each year as our state’s Vietnam Veteran’s Day. This day is meant to show not only our gratitude but to offer encouragement to those individuals who came home to a reception that was less than friendly.
More than 3 million Americans spent time in Vietnam from the late 1950s until the mid-seventies, and approximately 58,000 of our fellow countrymen lost their lives there, during this the longest war in our country’s history. Numerous other veterans suffered hardships, both during and after the war. Things like PTSD and problems from exposure to hazardous chemicals—including Agent Orange, of which little was known about its damaging effects on the human body at that time—continue to plague a great number of those who served during the Vietnam War era.
Unfortunately, not all the wounds received by some of our servicemen were sustained on the battlefield. The following are comments made by several of our veterans in discussing their return to the states: “We came home to a country that was embarrassed to even claim us.” “When we started college, our peers were disrespectful and even mean-spirited, and they were a part of the anti-war movement.” “When I entered college, many, knowing that I served in Vietnam, wouldn’t even speak to us (veterans). They just wanted us to go away.” This person went on to say, “One of my high school girlfriends made the comment, ‘I can’t believe you went to Vietnam. I am so disappointed in you.’”
It is no secret that Vietnam War veterans were treated badly when they returned home. The question is Why? Maybe one reason is that they became convenient scapegoats for a very angry nation that was weary of war. It was a turbulent time in our history. Sadly, those who served were portrayed as “baby killers,” “psychos,” “drug addicts, or “war mongers.” Hollywood and the liberal media were also very critical of the nation’s overall Vietnam efforts.
In 1968, one of the most respected media personalities was CBS’s reporter, Walter Cronkite, a famous Missourian who consistently tried to portray the war efforts fairly, though he did declare that it was un-winnable. America hated the war. A myriad of people were bitter and angry and needed someone to blame. Unfortunately, our returning service people unfairly shouldered that blame.
In recognizing Vietnam veterans, it is important to note that for them this is not a “woe-is-me” day. These individuals are proud of their service, and it is time they receive their just recognition.
When they returned, many veterans became “victims” of the war and not heroes coming home. There were no ticker tape parades and no hero’s welcome for them. Following the war, when Vietnam memorials were being discussed and planned, even the designs drew a great deal of criticism, a direct reflection of the sentiment of that time period, and a sentiment our veterans did not personally earn nor deserve. The United War Veteran’s Council created a motto as a result of the poor treatment received by our Vietnam veterans—“Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.” And never again should America be allowed to abandon so much as one of her own. Recently, while talking with a Vietnam veteran, he made this statement: “I was one of the lucky ones; I made it home…and I would do it again, because I love my country.”
“I love my country.” This seems to be the common sentiment of those brave, patriotic individuals who answered their country’s call when they were summoned. Thank you,Vietnam veterans, and thank you ALL veterans.