Plus, they were gonna (ahem) feed us. So we went.
But Vietnam vets? None of that. My father-in-law, A WWII vet, made and hung a huge Welcome Home banner across the front of the house for Smarticus, but our country as a whole met our soldiers returning home from Vietnam with silence, and even worse, with disdain. Their sacrifices went largely unappreciated, and were dismissed, or even insulted, by a population that was, for the most part, grossly misinformed.
No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. Rarely have so many people been so wrong about so much. Never have the consequences of their misunderstanding been so tragic. [Richard Nixon]
I could go on a major tirade here, and tell you about some of the blatantly incorrect and misleading reports and myths from back then, but that isn't the point of this post. The point of this post is that our country is finally trying to set things right.
It's finally considered appropriate to thank our Vietnam vets. In 2011, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution designating March 30 as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. (Funny, but I didn't hear anything about it. Did you?) The idea was to spur a national effort to recognize the men and women who were denied a proper welcome upon returning home more than forty years ago.
Since then, more and more states have passed similar resolutions and laws, naming either March 29 or 30 as Vietnam Veterans Day. (When U.S. troops left Vietnam in 1973, the date was March 29 in Vietnam, and the 30th here at home, so either date is considered acceptable.) Besides, the date doesn't matter nearly as much as the sentiment.
That's Smarticus in the front row, third from the right. It was truly wonderful to see him and these other vets finally get some recognition, and to finally get that thank you and welcome home they all deserved. And as the wife, and sister, of Vietnam vets, I hope you'll forgive me for saying it, but... It's about damned time.
Little-Known Facts About the Vietnam War
- Although many people think it was a war fought by draftees, a surprising 2/3 of the soldiers serving in Nam were actually volunteers, as opposed to WWII, when 2/3 of the soldiers were draftees.
- Although the average age of the soldier serving in Nam has often been reported as nineteen, it was actually 23.11. The youngest was sixteen, and the oldest, sixty-two. (The average age of those serving in WWII was twenty-six.)
- Thanks to the mobility provided by helicopters, the average infantryman serving in Vietnam saw 240 days of combat in a year. By comparison, a WWII infantryman serving four years in the South Pacific saw an average of forty days of combat.
- Vietnam vets were the best-educated our nation had ever sent into combat. Seventy-nine percent had a high school education or better.
- From 1965-1972, 8.7 million Americans served in the military. Approximately one-third of them spent some time in Vietnam. Of those, only about twelve percent were in combat.
- Of the many men and women who lost their lives in Vietnam, 86% were Caucasian, 12.5% were black, and 1.2% of some other race.
[Sources: General William C. Westmoreland, Lt. Gen Barry R. McCaffrey, and the CACF (Combat Area Casualty File)]
Infantry duty is a rough business, even in peace time. [James Dunnigan]
So is there someone YOU need to thank? Certainly, we all owe gratitude to our vets, but who else? A spouse? A parent? A sibling or friend? A child? A teacher or minister who encouraged you when you needed it the most? Somebody. Surely, there's somebody. Don't assume that person already knows how grateful you are. You've gotta say it. Or write it. Because, despite what that state senator said, sometimes it is too late, so don't put it off, especially not for fifty years. Say it today.
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. [William Arthur Ward]
Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart. [Zig Ziglar]
Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary. [Margaret Cousins]
So, all of you... thank you. Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, and thank you for your terrific comments. You guys rock.
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
P.S. For anyone reading this post on the afternoon of the 17th or later, I apologize for the unusual header picture. Because I won't be around tomorrow to change the header pic for Friday's post, I opted to remove the more appropriate picture of a vet leaning against the Vietnam Memorial, and to replace it with a pic that complements Friday's post.