Monday, November 12, 2007

One Veteran's story~

My husband was twenty-four in the spring of 1967 when the Army drafted him during the Vietnam years.

Finished with grad school, he was teaching in Connecticut, and had plans to marry in three months. Not to me; I was a sophomore in high school then.

Deciding that he'd rather be the one giving the orders than taking them, he enlisted in the Marines and made plans to go to Officer Candidate School.

He told his fiancée what he'd done, and gave her the option of postponing the wedding, knowing he could be killed or maimed. They married as planned. Their son was born at Camp Le Jeune when his tour in Nam was complete.

The thirteen months he spent in the jungles are not something he's said much about. I've seen his medals. I've seen a Vietnam flag he pulled from somewhere. I've read letters from superiors praising the job he did.

But I know little. It was hot. He made sure his men were taken care of. He made decisions for the greater good. He gave orders that impacted lives. He saw his men get killed. He wrote letters to parents back home.

The rest he's buried deep inside somewhere. I don't know if he thinks of it much, but he winces at the whir of helicopters overhead, recoils sharply at the sound of gunfire and is moved to tears watching war movies.

"Did any of your men commit the atrocities we heard so much of," I asked once, naively and perhaps in retrospect, thoughtlessly.

"No." he says simply.

"How do you know?"

"Because I was with them," he tells me, the implication clear.

He didn't ask to fight in that war, but when he was drafted he gave more than was asked by enlisting and becoming an officer, pretty much insuring that he'd be in the thick of things. And he was.

As a veteran, what does he want? Absolutely nothing . . . except maybe acknowledgment that he did what he was trained to do to the best of his ability. He followed orders, and in turn gave them. He served his country as required.

He was spit on in San Francisco Air Port when he returned from Vietnam.

He cried at the memorial in Washington, DC.

It was war, and what was it good for? Absolutely nothing!
Memorial Day Tears

When the soldiers came home from Vietnam, there were no parades, no celebrations. So they built the Vietnam Memorial for themselves. ~William Westmoreland


Voyager said...

I am so heartened by the fact that our society has evolved somewhat, in that we now don't take our distain for war out on the soldiers who serve. The way Vietnam vets were treated when they came home is shocking. Give your brave and honourable husband a hug.

Wanda said...

By brother in law and several others I know faced that kind of treatment...It's so wrong...and I share your tears. Thank you for telling it like it is.
I join with voyager...please give your wonderful husband a hug from me too.

Josie said...

I remember that bloody war, (and I mean bloody in every sense) and I remember how badly those young fellows were treated when they came back to North America. I had a very good friend who was shot, and the bullet went through him and through his best friend's head. When my friend got back to North America he immediately headed for Canada. He couldn't stand to live in his own country anymore. What a terrible war that was. And now young men are being sent to Iraq in the same type of futile war.

Your husband is a hero.

Lisa said...

Ditto to what voyager said above. I am so grateful for the service of all of our brave veterans.

Carter said...

I sympathize mightily with your husband. I hated the way veterans were treated at the time. To oppose the war was one thing; to mistreat veterans was unconscionable.

The Iraq veterans are being treated better by ordinary Americans, thank goodness, but not by the government, which gives them lousy medical care, lousy benefits, and virtually no college help. That's something we could protest about for sure.

It's not so clear, however, that the Vietnam war was worthless. A case can be made that it helped hasten the fall of the USSR, which was a threat to the US. It's a tough call, but the answer is not simple. I opposed the war at the time, but may have been wrong. That the high command was dishonest and stupid is not, however, at issue.

But that the Iraq adventure was illegal, immoral, stupid, and disastrous from the start is not in doubt. Why aren't we in the streets protesting?

tim said...

semper fi!

Janice Thomson said...

One of the blackest marks in American history is how the Nam war veterans were treated. I can't help but agree with Carter and wonder why aren't people protesting? Have we become so insensitive that life has no meaning anymore? Are our sons/daughters and husbands really that dispensable?
Your husband has the utmost respect from me and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Ruth D~ said...

Thank you all . . . Bruce read this, declined to reply, but I know it meant a lot to him to feel the support. Yes, we have learned a lot between then and now.