A Memorial Day history lesson about the Vietnam War
Just got back into town after a short trip up to South Dakota to experience Mt. Rushmore personally… overall a very worthwhile experience!
Here in the U.S., most of us are about to celebrate Memorial Day, a holiday which meant very little to me until I married a Vietnam era veteran. I am afraid most young Americans have no understanding of what happened to those in their late teens and twenties during the Vietnam War.
If you asked them, most probably would not know that everyone fought our wars back then, not just those who volunteered.
We boomers remember well “the lottery” or annual drawing of birthday dates which determined who might be sent first to Vietnam, and eventually who might die or be injured there. This applied only to men. Their only options were to go fight, try for conscientious objector status, or go hide in Canada if their number came up and they did not wish to risk dying in Vietnam.
Many of the men I have known throughout my life were scarred permanently by their Vietnam service. One still carries around shrapnel from being shot in the back and left for dead by the Viet Cong. Another was a medic who broke his back when he dove out of a helicopter that was about to blow up. And I wonder how many families have been destroyed by military service, either by members never coming back home, or coming home devastated or traumatized.
Most of these men experience varying levels of PTSD to this day. Far too many ended up mentally ill and homeless after the war. Unlike most veterans today, many were spat upon and called “baby killer” when they returned home. And remember most were drafted into the military.
My husband Mike volunteered for the Navy during the Vietnam War. He had always loved the sea and wanted to experience life on the Pacific, which he did. He suffers today from exposures to numerous toxic chemicals during his years of service to our country, with severe long-term disabilities, which the VA takes no responsibility for.
Mike suffers from a severe case of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) everyday, and has suffered for over 20 years now. He is caught between VA coverage of veterans exposed to Agent Orange, because he received exposure just off the shore of Vietnam, and coverage for CFS, which is only acceptable as a result of Gulf War exposures. He and his Vietnam veteran friends will never forget being disrespected upon their return home.
For those in Northern Colorado this Memorial Day weekend, please consider a trip out to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, an 80 percent replica of the iconic Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.