Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2012

50 years too late

May 30, 2012


To the editor:

Suddenly it has become politically correct and fashionable to recognize veterans of the Vietnam War. Example, Memorial Day 2012: Tom Selleck hosting the ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial Wall and throughout the country many political figures acknowledging Vietnam veterans saying, “We are sorry you didn’t get the recognition you deserved, but thank you now.”

Excuse me! Sorry doesn’t cut it.

What about my cousin, a wounded helicopter pilot, who was spit upon when returning from duty through the Los Angeles airport, or my brother, who while strolling on the Plaza in Kansas City, was accused of being a killer just days back from one of the hottest battles of the war. And, then there is my husband … .

Saying you are sorry doesn’t make it right. There is a lesson my mother taught me when I was very young: “Saying you are sorry doesn’t make up for what you have done. If you have to say you are sorry for something, it means you shouldn’t have done it in the first place.”

For those of you who have to say you are sorry to our Vietnam veterans, I suggest, instead of saying you are sorry, think about this: For those who fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.

Thank you to all veterans.


Armstrong 6 years ago

You are 100% correct. Excellent post. I had relatives fighting in that war too, it was a shame the way our guys were treated when they came home.

Lawrence Morgan 6 years ago

I agree with you. I didn't go to Vietnam, but to Europe. When I got back, all I found was scorn in Lawrence. People who never went into the service had gotten master's degrees. But I and many veterans who came back were treated very badly. I find it very hypocritical today, after all these years, to find them expressing themselves differently. It is too late.

Abdu Omar 6 years ago

Kansasplains1, I too, was a vietnam era veteran. I went to Korea to help with the repatriating of the Pueblo Crew. And when I came home it was bad news. I was treated poorly, also. But One thing I have learned is that no one knows what you have done for this country like you do. Quietly we must remember the sacrifice that we were willing to make and some of our commrades did make. I was spared Vietnam because the top 6 of my class went to Korea instead but I would have gone had I been ordered. "War should be a terrible thing, else we would become too fond of it."-Robert E. Lee.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years ago

“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.” - Herodotus, (circa 484 – 425 BC)

Nothing has changed in almost 2,500 years.

Alyosha 6 years ago

Yet another incomprehensible string of words salted with bizarre quote marks. Try harder, False. Add something serious and comprehensible to the discussion. The are plenty of sites with good advice for effective communication online you could refer to.

Be like the Founders: have a decent respect for the opinions of mankind, as our Declaration of Independence puts it. Your comments' lack of sense / common usage / standard punctuation evidence nothing but disrespect for potential readers. The class clown shtick befits only the intellectually insecure.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years ago

FalseHopeNoChange, I forgot the proper term for those people, but I think it started with A.

Mark Zwahl 6 years ago

There ya go... just stay mad about it and don't let anyone change their minds or perspectives or apologize. Then you couldn't stay mad could you? And who would you be without all that anger and self-righteousness?

I can only image how hard those times and those "unwelcomes" must have been. And I wonder if you can honor yourselves and the other vets differently than just staying angry?

George Lippencott 6 years ago

It is not a myth - it happened to me at the SF airport on my way back. It was my fault - I responded negatively to the young women who were commenting to men in uniform - I was not.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

Read the article I linked, and tell me why there were zero contemporaneous reports of such incidents, but starting about 1990, lots of folks like you started coming up with strikingly similar stories, even though troops did NOT fly into SF airport.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

Hi Bozo you got me. I did not fly into SF airport - I flew out. I DEROSed into Travis out by Sacramento and took a bus to the SF airport to move on to my destination - like countless others did.

I could care what your report says. I shared a personal experience.

Exactly who would I report such behavior to anyway - the police?? After a year in a war zone who wants to spend their first few hours back in the "world" filling out reports that would go nowhere.

Lord you people are really stupid and will do anything to try to make someone reporting something you don't like look like a idiot. Just who is the liar here? Troops did not fly intoSF from the war zone. They did fly out and they flew in from other locations on their way home.

Alceste 6 years ago

Had a One way ticket back from VPAF (then Tan Son Nhut Air Base) to SEA via charter. The story in that newspaper is bull roar.

JackMcKee 6 years ago

What does this person want? I wasn't even alive back then. Quit bichin' and go do something to help a wounded warrier, lady.

Maddy Griffin 6 years ago

Seems folks have finally realized that you can suppor tour troops without supporting the war.

Joe Hyde 6 years ago

A social problem many returning US soldiers, sailors and airmen have dealt with since World War II is that the Congress and various presidents have been sending our military into lethal "conflicts" without ever officially declaring a state of war. In a serviceman or servicewoman's mind this failure of political leadership to declare war on the enemy country in question leads to servicepeople harboring nagging doubts as to whether the efforts and sacrifice of lives they make in the field are truly necessary to satisfy a legitimate national interest.

I've sensed a recent tendency in the US to heap an inordinate amount of praise and honor on active duty military and military veterans. While these gestures are heartfelt for the most part, I can't help feeling fearful over the fact that we've apparently moved away from the draft laws and shifted to an all-volunteer military.

I feel strongly that the US will involve itself in fewer deadly military actions worldwide if a Constitutional Amendment were passed that compels the federal government to re-institute the civilian draft every time our political leadership sends our military into harm's way. In a social environment where each American family's young sons and daughters suddenly and automatically become subject to involuntarily military service (and then possibly killed in battle) we will see more US voters paying much closer attention to what their elected representatives are saying and doing in matters of international dispute.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

"inordinate amount of praise and honor on active duty military and military veterans"

I would agree with your point if you would stay focused on the politics and not the warriors. We walked away from the draft in no small part because it did in part exactly what you suggest except with many loopholes.

Skin in the game has an amazing effect on how people think - be it making war or paying taxes!!!

funkdog1 6 years ago

You're right. Sorry doesn't make it right. Just as sorry doesn't make things right with African Americans who were held as slaves and Native Americans who were pressured into near extinction by the white man.

Right? Or are we all just suposed to "get over" that stuff and "move on"?

asixbury 6 years ago

Many of us, if not most of us, were not even alive when those atrocities happened. Why should I be sorry? I had no hand in those actions. I'm sorry it happened, but beyond that, it's not my actions to apologize for. If we don't move on, then what's the point? Remembering the past is good to prevent it from happening again, but constantly bringing up issues that happened 50+ years ago is pointless beyond that. It was wrong; America shouldn't have done it, now let's learn our lesson and move on!

funkdog1 6 years ago

So 50 years is the cutoff date? How about the fact that 50 years ago, Jim Crow laws were still in effect?

It just makes me laugh how white people are so quick to trivialize the wrongdoings done to other cultures but then we're equally so quick to have our feelings hurt.

jonas_opines 6 years ago

It's rather pointless to include the "white" tag.

It's pretty much a truism that most everybody has a dual-standard of that which affects others, versus that which affects oneself. Racial, ethnic, religious, etc. divisions simply change that from an individual to a collective group.

Delineating by race, as if the "whites" are somehow special in this regard, does nothing but continue the divisions.

asixbury 6 years ago

How do you know if I am white, yellow, or pink? I did not have a hand in anything that happened long before I was born, so therefore have nothing to feel sorry or apologize for. I never said 50 years was the cutoff point; it was to illustrate the fact that many of us weren't even alive when those laws were in place. Were you alive then? If not, you have nothing to moan about either; stop playing the victim. If you were, and were affected by it, then you have a reason to want an apology. It shouldn't come from people, however, that weren't even alive when it happened.

Tomato 6 years ago

The median age in the United States is 36.8. Meaning that 37 years after the fact, fewer than 50% of people in this country were alive to witness it.

50 years later, only about 27% of people were alive to see it.

65 years after the fact, 13% of people were alive to witness it.

When three quarters of the population weren't around when something happened, why is it so terrible for them to stop apologizing for it?

What is a good cutoff date for my great grandkids to stop feeling guilty about the bad things I did? When should I stop feeling sorry for myself because of the crimes perpetrated against my ancestors?

Heck, I'm not even from this country - but my home country did subjugate its own natives and my grandparents' country was imperialistic. Should I only feel bad about the misdeeds of my European ancestors, or do I adopt the wrongdoings of this culture when I become a citizen?

And if some of my European ancestors subjugated my other European ancestors, am I the victim or the perpetrator?

md 6 years ago

I am disabled from combat in vietnam. I still hurt from the way I was treated on my return. But you cant let it rule you. The veterans have it so much easier today, thanks in part to our experience and the fight we have done and still do to help our new vets. What would help vets from all wars? For people to let the politicions know that the back log of claims for wounded vets have to addressed. Some nam vets have waited ten years or more to get a claim through.Also dont forget us when we are not needed anymore. This is the time we might need you most.

BigAl 6 years ago

I too was scorned when I returned. It was so bad that a couple of us Vietnam vets were actually asked to leave an American Legion post because we "weren't welcome there". Two WWII vets walked over to where we were having a cold beer and they asked us to leave. I am over it but time hasn't healed all the wounds. There are a lot of stories like that.

I realize some of you don't understand but to those of us that lived it do understand. Some of you want to make it political but it wasn't liberal or conservative, it was widespread. I assure you, the two fellas that asked us to leave the Legion were not liberal.

By the way, I will never join the American Legion but I support the troops with donations, time and prayer.

Also, as a Vietnam vet, just leave me alone. I have dealt with it and am getting along fine.

BigAl 6 years ago

By the way, this didn't happen at the Lawrence Legion Post.

Alyosha 6 years ago

Thanks both for your comment and your service.

Richard Payton 6 years ago

Let go of the past. Forgiveness is a trait that allows healing. Nothing is wrong with saying I'm sorry. I respect those that have the courage to say their sorry. Thinking everyone is perfect and should act perfect at all times is rather impossible in my view point. I agree it's best to do the right thing.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

The letter writer did not have to face the difficult decisions that a typical 18 year old male had to face during the Vietnam War. As a woman, she was not eligible for the draft. She didn't have to ponder her fate, having to choose war, prison or flight to someplace like Canada. She could have chosen to enlist, but with multiple references to family members who served and no mention of her own, I'll assume she did not. Yes, I am sorry for the way Vietnam War veterans were treated by some. But being lectured by someone who had the luxury of being sheltered from difficult decisions seems somewhat disingenuous, at best.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

Wives do at times speak for their husbands - they have earned that right!

jonas_opines 6 years ago

Don't apologize, change the past!

Kirk Larson 6 years ago

What's different today is knowing where to place the blame. Atrocities were committed in Viet Nam and the draft was an evil, mis-used thing, but the soldiers on the ground were not so much to blame as their superiors and the Legislators and Executive administrations. Today, we know that the Iraq war was a ginned up fiasco brought on by The Bush/Cheaney corp, republican legislators and spineless Democrats. I don't blame any of them who volunteered to serve.

blindrabbit 6 years ago

As a Vietnam Vet, I make a few observations!

The war should never have happened! The war was fought at a time when all sorts of protestations were in vogue! The war was too close, body counts, videos every night on T.V.! Vets were sent home individually, not as units, No homecomeing at Travis AFB! Draft was controversial, but actually helped end the fiasco! The last thing the Military wants is a Draft, too many free thinkers! Jane's actions were inexcusable, but this event pointed out the fallacy of the war! McNamara, Westmoreland, Johnson and Nixon were incapable of leadership and morals! Military Industrial Complex saw the war as a profit making event! Much more, but I'll stop here!

tolawdjk 6 years ago

What I find fascinating about this era is how much of it could have been prevented if the US had not financially and tacitly supported France as much as it did at the end of WWII.

France retained an undying dream of colonialism even after its defeat and used huge sums of its rebuilding capital to push its colonial reaches in SE Asia even to the detriment of rebuilding France itself.

There are some interesting acounts out there that paint the Vietnamese Communists not as "communists" so much as they were a people looking for a nationalist identity. That region had for centuries been under one foriegn ruler or another...before the Eurpoeans it was the Chinese. After the Europeans it was the Japanese.

If a bit more pragmatic "nation" building had been done at the time rather than "colony" building, a lot of the tragedy that resulted in SE Asia could have been prevented. The Vietnamese had no love for Communist China, and only after being repeatedly spurned by the West did they turn to them as an outlet to self identity.

cato_the_elder 6 years ago

Excellent comment. It all started with Dien Bien Phu, after which our leaders made a number of unfortunate decisions from that time forward. Coupled with the unwillingness of the South Vietnamese elite to put it all on the line, the collective blunders of LBJ and his "best and the brightest" think-tankers had a lasting impact on our country.

For anyone who is interested in what happened early on and how we could have had it all won by the mid-'60s, read Neil Sheehan's "A Bright Shining Lie," which was originally serialized in the New Yorker and then later published in book form.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

What I find fascinating about this era is how much of it could have been prevented if the US had not financially and tacitly supported France as much as it did at the end of WWII

Noderate opines: Bingo!!!

Ron Holzwarth 6 years ago

I am certainly not an expert, but I have personally worked with, known, and discussed the war with a few South Vietnamese refugees and known several vets who did return, but they rarely to never discussed the war. And I have read some on the subject, but not extensively.

One tidbit that I do remember was the event on May 4, 1970, at Kent, Ohio, when the Ohio National Guard started shooting unarmed protesters against the war, killing 4 and wounding 9, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

Amendment 1 of the Constitution of the United States of America:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;

---> or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, < ---

and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I read that the public opinion about the war changed a great deal when agents of the American government literally shot to death American citizens that were peacefully protesting the war.

There is no doubt: The United States of America was never in any danger of being invaded by North Vietnam. And, no one wants to point out that we lost the war anyway.

And I've been told this: Very few, if any, sons of Congressmen or Senators ever fought in Vietnam.

blindrabbit 6 years ago

RonHolzwarth: Your comment about sons/daughters of congressmen/senators not serving brought to mind a converstion I had the other day about the fact that William and Harry, princes in G.B. have and contine to serve (maybe in some protected fashion, but!) I do not see much committment in the U.S. for service; not picking on Romney, but not one of his 5 sons have served, he certaintly did not. Interestingly, the Obama/Romney election will be the first since Hoover's election (1928) that at least one candidate did not serve in the military. FDR, did not actually serve on active duty, but it was not without trying, his polio condition prevent such! He always considered himself part of the Navy and likewise The Navy, as such!!

gravitykills 6 years ago

Just curious vertigo, what's your MOS?

Leslie Swearingen 6 years ago

"I'm telling you, fella I wouldn't be in your shoes Up s-- creek On a terminal cruise" From "23 Years Too Late."

See, ain't war grand? What iteration are we on now? Is anyone counting?

beatrice 6 years ago

Saying "I'm sorry" doesn't make it right, but it does acknowledge the wrong. I would rather someone acknowledge an error in judgment than stick to their misguided convictions. Also, one can be sorry for a situation without being personally responsible. To say "I'm sorry" is often used as a form of expressing empathy. If someone falls down and skins their knee, you can say, "I'm sorry that happened to you." That doesn't mean you then must have been responsible for tripping the person. Somehow, I doubt that Tom Selleck ever spat on a soldier returning from Vietnam.

But that is me. If the letter writer wants to hold a grudge against Tom Selleck, who am I to stop them.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

Hi Bozo you got me. I did not fly into SF airport - I flew out. I DEROSed into Travis out by Sacramento and took a bus to the SF airport to move on to my destination - like countless others did.

I could care what your report says. I shared a personal experience – my own observation.

Exactly who would I report such behavior to anyway - the police?? After a year in a war zone who wants to spend their first few hours back in the "world" filling out reports that would go nowhere.

Lord you people are really stupid and will do anything to try to make someone reporting something you don't like look like an idiot. Just who is the liar here? Troops did not fly into SF from the war zone. They did fly out and they flew in from other locations on their way home or the next duty station.

I note above the revisionist history. My simplistic version follows: The Vietnam War lasted from about 1944 until about 1975. In the early beginning we supported Uncle Ho against the Japanese. When the French decided they wanted the colony back we tried to dissuade them and then supported them. We supported the "peace" treaty between the French and the Viet Ming setting independent North and South Vietnams. We supported the South when the North violated the treaty and did so until we left. Truman was in power when it started and Nixon when it ended with Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson along the way.

Whatever blame attaches to that mess is shared by all parties and many citizens. Remember the troops were draftees not part of today’s all volunteer force.

Oh by the way Kent State was anything but peaceful. Go look at the old newsreels. It is unfortunate that bullets once discharged don't care where you are and if I recall correctly about half the killed and wounded were not really part of the very un-peaceful protest. I remind you that the citizens of Ohio did not exact criminal sanctions against the guardsmen?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"My simplistic version follows:"

That's pretty superfluous, George. Simplistic is the only version of anything that you ever supply.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

Thank you Bozo. If you have nothing intelligent to say about a post attack the poster personally. Wow, even I can do that.

In time respected historians will grapple with that war. Until then it is anecdotal.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

Nothing you said refuted in any way the result of the research reported in the article I linked. And your picking a fight with someone doesn't prove the urban myth was not a myth.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

Except for my personal experience. I note I did not generalize it or claim it was wide spread. . Are you calling me a liar again because there is no record of anybody filing a complaint??? How do you know the study was on the up and up or that their research was exhausting??

You live in a very weird world. A study finds no evidence of a complaint so the matter could never have happened. Perhaps we should interview all the veterans.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

So you picked a fight with someone and they spit at you? Is that what happened?

Leslie Swearingen 6 years ago

Hey, hey, LBJ, How many kids did you kill today? I vividly recall chanting that, the man chose not to run for a second term. Martin Luther King, jr. was against the Vietnam War and did not hesitate to say so. That little chat he had with LBJ might have had something to do with Johnsons decision to step down.

Patricia Davis 6 years ago

Unlike many commenters to your letter, I was alive and protesting the Viet Nam war. My father who spent four years in Patton's army was horrified. Debating the war became a painful, hurtful thing between us, primarily because I was a daddy's girl and I knew how much pride he took in serving in WWII. Years later my father told me he agreed with me that the war had been a mistake and too many lives had been taken, too many survived with painful injuries. We both apologized to each other for the pains in the butts we had been to each other. It was a healing thing. He made me promise that should we have other wars in this country, that I must always remember to honor the soldier even if I didn't agree with the war. It is a promise I have gladly kept.

I keep my father's Eisenhower jacket hanging on a hook on wall in my house. I pass by it several times a day. This jacket is so small. The boy who wore it proudly had been only 18 when he was drafted. A picture of him in his uniform is next to the jacket. So young. So willing to serve. My dad.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (anonymous) replies… So you picked a fight with someone and they spit at you? Is that what happened?

Moderete Explains: Essentially although my version is that I inserted myself into a (not sure how to brand it) activity where some young ladies were disparaging some enlisted soldiers just off the plane with me. It was an uneven fight. I offered myself as a better target. The young ladies became very agitated and essentially sprayed me (not necessarily deliberately - I will never know) - as they shouted at me about my horrible complicity in the war they believed to be immoral and I believe they claimed illegal. There were other rather nasty inferences.

That will teach me. Of course it was not the first time nor the last although the other confrontations were more amicable. Not all protesters were disrespectful. But when a few college kids went after "baby" marines or soldiers I did try to even the odds on several occasions (that was in LA where I was stationed) I guess in your world only the protesters have a right to the floor?!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

The facts remain that there was no significant amount of harassment of returning soldiers, and that includes the myths about spitting on them. This is well-documented. Your anecdote of your escalation of whatever interactions you encountered notwithstanding.

Alceste 6 years ago

Had a One way ticket back from VPAF (then Tan Son Nhut Air Base) to SEA via charter. Kids waiting in the airport for any hapless gi walking about. Spit they did. The story in that newspaper is bull roar.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

The fact remains from countless annecdotal experiences by returning soldiers that there was harassment. Since three million served I can not attest to "significant".

I have never been able to find support for your version among those who were there. What support you seem to have comes from reports like you surfaced that may well be acurate as to reporting (who bothered to report) but are not accurate as to the actual activity - which was signifiant enough to draw comments from many veterans after the fact.

I guess in your world all veterans were pro-war and therefore prone to liie about their experiences.

I think you just want to wish it away because it was misguided and inappropriate.

George Lippencott 6 years ago

So we should eliminate all cars and trucks and all ride busses or trains. Of course we would still need roads and bridges and maintenance so exactly what are we trying to suggest when bringing roads into the discussion

George Lippencott 6 years ago

From News “It's hard to say where they come from (stories of spitting). For a book I wrote in 1998 I looked back to the time when the spit was supposedly flying, the late 1960s and early 1970s. I found nothing. No news reports or even claims that someone was being spat on.”

Reasons for the perception of spitting listed in the article included - Troops did not go through commercial airports - A counter to perceived treason by Fonda - Legends of the soldiers of other nations - A fear of the loss of manhood - And so on

Then there is a poll that reflected that most Vietnam veterans felt they were greeted warmly accompanied by a suggestion that the two points of view are exclusive.

Moderate Opines: What a crock.

The press was watching all the airports all the time so it never happened. Exactly who other than the press would report such an experience? What would you report – an exercise of free speech?? How many times have you gone through an airport and found the press there??

Troops for the most part went through commercial airports after landing at military ones.

The rest is psycho mumble jumble assuming that the reports were false and adding a bit of left wing propaganda about the troops.

The poll – well I was greeted warmly by my friends and associates. The vast majority of the general public ignored me. There was little or no public acknowledgement of my service. Most importantly, I did not consider my experience with protesters as reflecting how the society at large felt about me.

My perception at that time and still is that many of the more strident protesters were from the left and found it inconvenient to blame Democratic presidents for the war so they blamed the soldiers. I bet it is very uncomfortable for them to now face a nation that is apologetic for the less then enthusiastic public greeting to our retuning Vietnam veterans.

We know Bozo inhabits the left so there should be no surprise at this very poorly supported misleading argument.

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