I received this note from a veteran that we can highly honor. He wants his name to be known: David Jones.
4:19 pm on April 30, 2013 Email Laurence M. Vance
Your recent essay – “Should We Honor Vietnam Veterans?” – struck a chord with me. I’m one of those Vietnam era veterans. For many years now I’ve known that Vietnam was a huge mistake not unlike most wars that America has engaged in the last hundred years or so. But Vietnam was different for some reason, perhaps because I was involved. I was safely off the coast in the 70’s on an aircraft carrier so I didn’t see any action per se. Like many others my age I bought into the “domino theory” that drove foreign policy at the time. Communism had to be defeated over there before it landed on our shores. However, I was always unsettled about the war and my role in it. In 1999-2000 I spent four months over in SE Asia on a sort of pilgrimage where I discovered that the war was not only a huge blunder but a downright atrocity. I spent a lot of time in Laos and Cambodia which opened my eyes to just how horrible the war was. The remnants were still present decades after the war was over.
What troubles me the most these days is the lack of remorse for what America wrought to the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I live down the street from a Vietnam vet who flies a flag with the Vietnam campaign medal on it. He’s proud of his service and talks about the “58,000 names on the wall…” while poo pooing any responsibility for the three million Vietnamese that lost their lives. To me this reflects the attitude of most American’s who think this country is “exceptional”, a notion I reject. “They deserved it” he says. Needless to say, I have very little to do with the guy.
Nick Turse’s book came on my radar a couple of weeks ago and I have it on order through Amazon. I’ve read enough about it to know that I have to steel myself for a troubling experience. Last week I did something I never thought I’d do. I took my Honorable Discharge document as well as other service related documents and put them through my shredder. In my mind, there is nothing honorable about having “served” in that war. This was sort of the last step in a process I began some time ago. Last year I threw my medals and ribbons in the dumpster because frankly I thought nobody should be rewarded for doing something so heinous as what America did to the citizens of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia regardless of their role.
It’s too bad Americans don’t learn from history because it repeats itself endlessly. Yesterday it was Vietnam and today it’s Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s hope that one day the cycle of violence and interference in other nations ends. Frankly I’m not optimistic.