I was young during those days, but since then I have read some and come to a more enlightened perspective. I remember when the cease fire kicked in – we went outside the house I grew up in, on Westchester Drive, at the moment, sometime in the evening, that it occurred. I don’t really remember what we did, all I recall is my neighbor Todd Weeden ringing a bell and saying “peace, peace peace!”. In reality, maybe it happened differently, but that’s the myth I choose to remember.
I have the utmost respect for Vietnam veterans, and think it is shameful how they were treated. NOT being spit on by hippies – that didn’t happen, as pretty a picture for anti-hippie folks as it might create. The vets were, and are, being treated shamefully by the society for which they fought. A lot of them, at least the ones who are still alive, are on the streets, they hold cups at intersections asking for change. They are the ones at whom you cast a baleful eye as you drive by in your cushy car, on the way to your comfy house and loving family. Not all of us have that attitude, of course, but a lot do. It’s so much easier to marginalize, and forget about, those whom you despise.
I still talk to Vietnam vets today who recount to me how they were reviled and abused when they came home. Of course, I don’t challenge their assertions. I listen – that’s what a lot of them want and need anyway. In some twisted and sad way, believing that they came back to a society who didn’t appreciate them and their efforts helps them deal with the experience. My guess is that they realize, deep down, that like a lot of wars, the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan included, the Vietnam conflict was a sham endeavor waged to prop up a corrupt system. A system which sent them thousands of miles away, to an alien society, and which, when they came back, expressed their gratitude by failing to see to their basic needs and in a lot of cases preventing them from getting compensation or care for the physical and mental injuries they suffered.
Veterans Day, and Memorial Day, for me, are more about the street corner and under the bridge guys than it is about the ones riding the tricked out Harleys sporting “Never forget!” stickers. I respect all veterans for their sacrifices, but am sometimes disgusted with a society which pays so much more attention to the well dressed and good smelling ones in their sporty VFW caps than to the ratty and tattered ones who they pass every day. Consoling themselves with condescending platitudes like “there but for the grace of God go I”. I want to live in a place where more attention is paid to, and care given to, those who need it, as difficult as it may be sometimes to be around them, due to their mental illnesses, bad smells and neediness.
- Top 10 Myths About The Vietnam War (secretsofthefed.com)