Put your politics aside.
I was surprised to learn that today is Vietnam War Veterans Day. You may be surprised too since it has only existed since 2017. The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 was signed into law by President Donald Trump and established March 29 as a day to honor and remember those who served in the Vietnam War.
Put aside the fact that Trump happened to be president at the moment the law was enacted and was the one to sign it. Would any president refuse to?
I was just a young pup during the Vietnam era, graduating from high school in 1974. So much of the politics of that time escaped my understanding. I came from a family with a fair military tradition but with no member actively in Vietnam. As a young teenager I was more sympathetic toward the soldiers than the protestors and that may have been because I resided in a very rural and conservative part of the south.
With hindsight and the benefit of history I believe we made a huge mistake with our involvement in Vietnam.
But I also think we made a bigger mistake in the way we treated those soldiers when they came home.
You can say that our country has many national embarrassments and that may be true. But one of the biggest was taking out anti-war frustrations on those who served in Vietnam. Our military personnel returning from Vietnam should never have been subjected to the hostility that they received.
The anti-war protests were important and the politicians who involved us in Vietnam should have been held accountable. But the soldiers should never have been thrown into the same group. They simply went where they were sent and did as they were ordered to do.
I do my best to speak to anyone who I happen to see wearing a Vietnam Vet cap or tee shirt. The responses have been interesting and only one was angry and bordered on rude. But I give him a break, he was there, I wasn’t.
After speaking to Vietnam vets I’ve received quiet nods, smiles and a few hugs accompanied by tears. Some seemed surprised and some relieved and some simply took it in stride while asking if I served too.
You may have been a staunch opponent of the war or you may have been a staunch supporter. Or you may be young enough that you haven’t given it much thought one way or another. But if you see a Vietnam Vet, please speak.
They never received their welcome home.