Since man first began walking on this Earth, there has always been someone or some group of people who’ve wanted to take over someone else’s land and do with it what they wanted. They wanted to be more powerful and control the people they took over. At the same time there have been others who have fought back against the dictators and tyrants. These warriors have fought to keep their lands and to free the ones who’d been captured or enslaved. Eventually these fighters on both sides became known as armies.
From 1900 – 1945 America had been at war for 10 of those 50 years but the threats of war went beyond those 10 years. The First World War (WWI) was fought from 1914 to 1918 and the Second World War (or WWII) was fought from 1939 to 1945. They were the largest military conflicts in human history and both wars had very high numbers of casualties on both sides. It’s no wonder that American sentiment for another war was unfavorable.
Historically, for the most part, whenever American soldiers have gone to war either here or abroad, we’ve been proud of them. When they’ve come home we welcomed and honored them and even had parades in their honor. We’ve called them heroes. There is, however, one time in American history where our soldiers were very unpopular, disrespected and even spat on by the very people that they went to war to protect. The Vietnam War from Nov 1, 1955 – Apr 30, 1975.
According to Wikipedia, “The U.S. government viewed its involvement in the (Vietnam) war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam…(the aim was to stop) the spread of communism worldwide…Many Americans opposed the war on moral grounds, the devastation and violence of the war. Others claimed the conflict was a war against Vietnamese independence, or an intervention in a foreign civil war; others opposed it because they felt it lacked clear objectives and appeared to be unwinnable.”
What many people don’t understand about the Vietnam War is that while the sometimes violent protesting was occurring here, the war raged on over there, as did atrocities that our minds can’t even fathom, nor have many of us heard. As with other wars, many young soldiers lost their lives, but this one had another type of casualty. Soldiers who went mad after seeing the atrocities and being a part of the annihilation of entire villages and the people who lived in them. A vast number of these brave soldiers came home suffering from PTSD on some level. Out of those who came home, a great many soldiers turned to drugs and/or alcohol as a way to cope with the nightmares they had. There were also many who committed suicide.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know some of our Vietnam veterans. On Veterans Day 2017, I was out to lunch with my cousin and overheard 3 vets sharing some of their stories. After my cousin and I were done eating, she and I went over to thank them for their service. They were just a couple of the many vets who’ve served this country. Two of my uncles fought in that war but we never really talked about their experiences over there. Some of my knowledge comes from overhearing some vets talking about their experiences but most of my knowledge has come from high school textbooks, documentaries on tv or Hollywood movies. That is until recently.
A number of months ago, I became friends with a Vietnam War veteran. He is my reason for writing this. As you continue to read this, you will understand.
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Come back tomorrow to read about a Native American Elder and retired Vietnam War veteran I met who wanted his story told