Searching For Yesterday

Switching the TV channels late at night sleepy eyed searching for any entertaining escape available has become a regular activity. On the history channel a program on the Vietnam War appeared. Never having been a war buff but it caught my attention. My time in Vietnam ended in 1970. The first Vietnam movie I watched was Good Morning Vietnam which played about twenty years after I returned. Probably the attraction to it was Robin Williams. Avoiding war type movies particularly on Vietnam wasn’t a result of carry over combat fatigue since my experience there wasn’t in the rice paddies or near the DMZ.

I recall recently reading a book about Vietnam by a Vietnamese writer and recollect him saying that many North Vietnamese soldiers who returned to the north after the war didn’t talk about their experience. Many of us American soldiers felt the same and remained mostly silent.

The segment I watched began in 1964 and into 1965.  The commentator said there were 16,000 American advisors there with the numbers increasing gradually.  Soldiers arrived, airplanes too with the belief that this would be a short war.  Our vastly superior military and equipment would swoop in, put a stop to the aggression, save the Republic of Vietnam, preserve the integrity of the 1954 Geneva  Accords keeping the county divided between North and South.  General Westmoreland backed  President Johnson on this.  Joseph Galloway, an on the ground reporter,  was a naysayer speaking quietly offering some concern about this. 

America needs to believe we are the good guys, not unlike the world police force, we can do this in record time.  The superiority, in and out concept seems to permeate our dialogue.  2003 witnessed our entering Iraq.  The same dialogue prevailed.  Let’s rid Iraq of its despicable leader, free the country quickly with “shock and awe.”  There were more realistic reasons as well.  At home it was get on board, support the effort or you will be ostracized  or worse not re-elected.  The don’t worry, quick action and you best support it or else was evident during the Vietnam War until the Tet Offensive in 1968.  Time was dragging on, Americans were being injured and dying, not quick and not easy.  This is being written in early December, 2020 and those who brought us shock and awe overlook that  American boots remain on the ground in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.  People my age remain too placid,  too complacent, maybe too content, too willing to accept half truths, lies and support those who mislead us as a nation and pursue the wrong direction on many issues.  How will we learn, when will we learn?

Why would I listen to deceitful leaders again? We read that many of the my generation support and vote for these leaders who deceive us and at times outright lie. It was said Vietnam was a poor man’s war, the rich didn’t serve. I honestly don’t know if that was true but the times were confusing for many. My career as a soldier was relatively short, just under three years. Many of us were not good soldiers but we were the greatest of our generation despite what has been said of us. We weren’t super patriots although many were hero’s. We did our time, a year in country then back often to what we left but we sought only self respect. No matter how we looked or dressed we did care about self respect not whether others respected us. Now we are all older, much older, and that concept of self respect for many of us has become selfish without respect. I wish I had the insight to understand why or better yet the ability to reach others and change them. Since I do not possess that capability I will have to accept who I am, just do what is right. That’s what many of us did so long ago, what we believed was right even if it wasn’t quite what we were led to believe.


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