Welcome Home - Vietnam Veterans Day -- a celebration long overdue, and sadly, one that many did not live long enough to see.
March 30, 1975, marked the withdrawal of American troops from South Viet Nam. Those troops returning to American soil received very little in the form of a "welcome home," and many of them were vilified, called "baby killer" and/or spat upon. They were warned not to wear their uniforms in public, and made to feel that somehow they should be ashamed of answering the call to duty when their country called upon them to serve.
Now, nearly 40 years later, America is finally getting around to saying "Thank you" to her Vietnam veterans. Congress passed a resolution that henceforth, March 30 should be set aside as Vietnam Veterans Day, in recognition of those brave individuals who served when asked by their government, in a war that was extremely unpopular here at home.
The vilification of the Vietnam veteran is something an American patriot is hard-pressed to comprehend. The fact that many returning vets were subjected to outright scorn and ridicule, and some even spit upon, represents a moment of shame in our national history.
How could the American populace not understand and/or appreciate the sacrifices that were made on their behalf? Maybe the war itself, and the politics behind it, were unpopular, and maybe the politicians who "ran" the war were incompetent, but the individual soldier was not responsible for the government policies he was charged with carrying out. Shame on those who took out their frustration with the government, both then and now, on those men and women who answered the call to serve.
If you've followed this site, you'll know that we've written about this issue on many occasions, sometimes engendering fierce debate. We're proud of our efforts to explode many of the myths about this nation's involvement in Southeast Asia and set the record straight about our Vietnam veterans and their role in American society.
No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. ---Richard M. Nixon
Vietnam was a unique conflict in our nation's history. It must properly be called a "conflict," because Congress never passed a resolution authorizing war. But if you talk to any of the troops who spent time on the ground in Viet Nam, they'll tell you it was definitely a war, as hellish as any other. And they'll quietly and tearfully tell you about their friends who didn't make it home.
But then, as now, only America's military was at war; the American people were at the mall (or the beach, or wherever). If you weren't part of a military family, the war was largely irrelevant to you and had no direct effect on your life. Like Iraq and Afghanistan, it was half a world away, in a culture we knew little about and understood even less.
And Vietnam was unique in that it was the first time video footage from the combat zone was streamed directly into American living rooms, uncensored by the government. Americans no longer had to go to the local movie theater to watch carefully edited newsreels from war correspondents. They had only to gather around the television set in the living room to watch (mostly black-and-white) combat video footage on the nightly news.
This brought the horror of war into our living rooms, and played a large part in the growing American sentiment against the war.
Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America - not on the battlefields of Vietnam. --- Marshall McLuhan, 1975
Vietnam veterans are still haunted by their experiences, including the treatment they received when they came home. It's time we did something about that.
So the next time you see a Vietnam vet, tell him (or her),
Welcome Home! and Thank You!
You may be the first person to ever welcome them home. (I have actually had Vietnam vets tell me I was the first person to tell them welcome home.)
And vow with them that never again will another generation of American heroes be treated as disrespectfully as our Vietnam veterans.
Surely you've heard the old saying, "If you can read, thank a teacher. And if you're reading in English, thank a veteran."
It's time to thank our Vietnam veterans for their service.
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