I served. 1966 to 1969. I spent a year in Vietnam. Today those who are closest to me have thanked me for my service. One even dared to suggest that I kept her safe.
To set the record straight, the Vietcong had no interest in attacking the United States of America. Neither did North Vietnam. Even Ho Chi Minh’s successors, a committee that included Defense Minister General Vo Nguyen Giap, had no interest in attacking the United States of America. I did nothing to keep anyone but myself safe. Regrettably over 58,000 (I still tear up at that number) American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines were not as successful as I was. The goverment lied; too many died.
Few of us were heroes. Whether we were drafted or volunteered, we showed up, did what was expected, then went home. When we got “back to the world” we were at best ignored, and at worst spit upon. This wasn’t exactly the homecoming we expected. However, most of us got over our time “in country.” Some didn’t.
Now we have a new generation that has signed up to protect our country. Yes, a small band of criminals commandeered some airplanes and flew them into important buildings. Rather than go after those who financed and planned that attack, the sitting administration convinced a congress, and a nation, that invasion of and a multi-year war in a country that had nothing to do with the initial attack, was somehow responsible and deserving of shock and awe.
The other significant difference between then and now is how veterans of this recent conflict are treated upon their return. The most offensive, in my mind, is that those who did nothing more than show up are hailed as heroes.
I guess my point in all this is that those of us who served forty-some-odd years ago have been under appreciated and those who put on the uniform today are fêted beyond reason. Al Quaida shot its wad in 2001. Another attack approaching that scale is not going to happen anytime soon. Attending a war does not justify heroic status. Saving lives on the actual battlefield does.
I’m not bitter, but I expect perspective.