By David Norlin
The word itself echoes down fifty-plus years. But who’s counting?
It’s emotional. Deep emotions triggered by: The Draft. Napalm. Agent Orange. Marijuana. Hooch. LSD. Heroin. M-16’s. Tet Offensive. My Lai. Jungles. Rice Paddies. Kent State. Gaping wounds. Apocalypse Now!
Given deep emotions, the recent gathering of Vietnam-affected people cannot be real-ized in print. You’d have to have been there. It was the largest Library crowd I’ve seen, even 50 years later.
One gentleman encouraged fellow Vets to speak to students in classes. Other survivors spoke, displaying wounds physical and emotional. A tearful 50-year-old daughter of a U.S. soldier and Vietnamese woman, her father suffering a short life upon his return, spoke of her family’s successes here, thanking the Vets for their sacrifice. A sacrifice made, not for country, but for each other, and for her family. She got a standing ovation.
Indeed, the overriding theme was caring for and protecting each other. In short, of love.
And yet. Still too raw to be discussed, 50 years later, were bare facts.
The fact that JFK was preparing to withdraw all troops before his assassination. The fact that the French had left, defeated, after Dien Bien Phu. The fact of General Westmoreland’s upbeat reports despite staggering losses. The fact that LBJ, Robert McNamara, Nixon, President Diem and President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, all sought self-preservation and pride before sanity.
Finally, there was the unbearable human toll. (Almost 20 times more Vietnamese killed than US; 1.1 million vs 58,000). And the fact that we were the occupiers, and U.S. citizenry was in revolt against its utter senselessness. This must be remembered.
So, we of Vietnam’s Era must tell the ‘kids’ (under 50) about The War. They must hear the stories. But understanding at a gut level means skin in the game. A draft, an end to US mercenary armies, an awareness of drone warfare’s toll on civilians, a knowledge that Bluster leads to ClusterF—and most importantly, that Emperor and Empire are likely lying to you.
No, check that. Most importantly, as Jesus and the Youngbloods tried to tell us—Love one another, Right Now!
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