By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
It marks a time in our nation’s history when social disorder became a daily occurrence. Family against family, neighbor against neighbor.
A time when scared boys became brave men only to be condemned by cowards trying to salvage their manhood in the eyes of the public. A time when answering your country’s call to serve brought on public condemnation.
Monday, April 30 marks the official end of the Vietnam War. Thirty-seven years have passed, and times have changed. Those once branded as “baby killers”, those once spat upon and pelted with bags of chicken blood, those who upon returning home were forced to hide their service in Vietnam in order to resume a normal life—they are now looked upon as heroes. Many who once condemned them, especially those with political ambitions, now wish they had served.
During the mid-1960s and early ’70s, the horror of the Vietnam War (no different than prior wars) was broadcast nightly into our nation’s living rooms. Its seemingly endlessness, especially against a Third World country, brought on impatience by people who came to expect instant gratification and whose only knowledge of war was a John Wayne movie.
Soon many people filled the streets, many egged on by college and university professors who espoused the political views of our enemy and labeled the war immoral.
Gradually, the Vietnamese communists were soon elevated to the status of heroic freedom fighters, while American military personnel were condemned as psychopathic killers, rapists and torturers. Those serving in Vietnam were looked upon as depraved individuals whose alleged actions deprived them a place in civil society. This myth was reported nightly by “war correspondents” on the evening news and by liberal anti-Vietnam senators.
The sleaziest of all was not Jane Fonda, but current U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate John F. Kerry. Although not an elected official at the time, he gravitated toward and took up the cause of the anti-war movement in order to pursue a political career.
While his fellow Vietnam Veterans experienced violent and excruciating death, he became part of the Winter Soldier Investigation, held in Detroit in 1971. Here narcissistic losers, looking for their 15 minutes of fame, gave false testimony of barbarism they claimed they had witnessed and carried out in a place (Vietnam) they had never been.
While his fellow Vietnam veterans battled to save their lives and body parts in military hospitals, Kerry went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and equated these brave patriots to Genghis Khan, the Mongolian leader that swept across Asia and Europe committing unspeakable carnage everywhere he went.
Kerry’s opposition to Vietnam enabled him to return to society as a hero, using his status to launch a political career. Meanwhile real Vietnam patriots had to keep their service secret in order to make a smooth transition back into an unforgiving society.
To those who used the phrase “The war was immoral” to excuse your non-military service: Why couldn’t you have enlisted in the Medical Corps? You could have provided help for your fellow countrymen.
During World War II, Corporal Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist, served as a medic in the U.S. Army’s 77th Division. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service to the wounded on Okinawa. He never carried a firearm during his entire time in the Service.
To those who fit the above profile: Why did you create a myth that labeled all who served in Vietnam, deranged individuals?
When you watch the nightly news and see the pain exhibited by families whose loved ones fell in battle in Iraq or Afghanistan, how do you feel?
Did you feel the same way when our military men fell in Vietnam? Did you call the family and express your joy over the death of another “baby killer”?
Was the saving of your manhood really worth adding to the domestic misery of those who served in Hell?
The war has long since ended. Those who served in Vietnam leave two legacies. First, they paved the way so that our younger military brothers and sisters could come back to first-class medical and psychological treatment, enabling them to smoothly integrate back into society.
Second, we turned out to be better men than those who villainized us. Always remember: “It don’t mean nothin”.