Looking Back at Vietnam

Recently, I watched a documented series about the Vietnam war which caused me to reflect on my high school years. I entered high school in 1971. By 1971 America was becoming weary with a war that could not be won. President Johnson led us into a war that seemed to have little purpose. Multiple thousands of young men had lost their lives and no victory was in sight. I watched battle footage on the nightly news with Walter Cronkite. I realized that I could be one of those soldiers taking fire from the North Vietnamese if drafted. Little did I realize that President Nixon would put a freeze on the draft and begin pulling the troops out of Vietnam the beginning of my senior year in 1975.

I came from a proud heritage of relatives who gladly placed themselves in harms way for the cause of freedom. My dad served during the Korean War. My uncles fought in World War Two.
I had no qualms about being drafted. If Uncle Sam called, I would have willingly answered. Most men my age were not joining up. We were familiar with too many in our town who did not make it back home. In retrospect, I have regrets that I did not volunteer. I wasted years trying to figure out my calling in life. I could have been more useful to my country had i joined the ranks of the few and the proud.

I turned 55 recently. When you reach the beginning of your senior years, you contemplate the true value of life. I am not certain that I have contributed to the cause of freedom like so many who lost their lives in Vietnam. I certainly have partaken of the fruits of those who gave their lives for my freedom. In some cases it may have been far better for me to lose my life in behalf of others, than to live selfishly for my own gain.

I have no romantic ideals of war. I believe that “war is hell,” Those who did make it through the hell of war in Vietnam have a better prospective on life than those who have never been a soldier. They matured faster than those of us who felt like we were immortal at 18 and 19 years old. Going through tough times at an early age builds character and stamina. It gives more meaning to life. It teaches us not waste the precious moments we have with our family and friends. It teaches us the brevity of life. We learn that every moment we have on this earth is a gift.

I stand in awe of the brave young men who were willing to lay down their lives for the sake of others. Even though I may never have another opportunity to lay my life on the line for the cause of freedom, there are some things we Baby Boomers and others can do to help those who did serve in Vietnam.

1. We can take the time to share with a Vietnam Veteran my deep respect and gratitude for their service and sacrifice. Most Vietnam Vets do not feel appreciated. Their stories need to be told. Listening to the war stories of a Vietnam Vet can be healing and therapeutic. Many have carried the
“nightmare” of combat

2. We can take time to appreciate the soldiers who are now fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. We need to learn from our mistakes in the Vietnam war. Soldiers coming home from the Vietnam War were mocked and ignored by those caught up in the anti-war movement. We have the power to correct the mistakes of a past generation by doing it right in our generation.

3. We can take the lead in searching for needs in the lives of our Vietnam Vets. Churches and civic organizations can help provide the Vietnam Vet with counseling, medical help and special needs to vets who have little financial means to help themselves.

Next time you learn of someone who fought in Vietnam, take some time to get to know them. Ask them to tell you their story if they can. Let them know that you are honored to be their friend. Let them know that you are supporting them no matter what they may face in the future. Even though I did not serve in Vietnam, I can be a soldier of help and mercy to those who did. We all can play a part in the healing of our Vietnam Vets. In doing do, we will become soldiers in a righteous cause far greater than ourselves.

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