Vietnam Veterans Not Among Those Most Honored

Almost forty years after the end of the war in which many risked their lives, Vietnam veterans find themselves set apart from the survivors of other wars. Those who fell to World War I are being honored for the centenary, and the seventieth anniversary of D-Day sees both survivors and casualties from the Second World War receiving commemorations. While many of these soldiers received honors directly after their wars, however, Vietnam veterans were never treated quite the same way.

By and large, these men were hated by many when they returned home to the United States. Many of those who survive today still have trouble understanding the nature of this hatred. Atrocities were certainly committed, as with all wars, but many Vietnam veterans were drafted and had very little choice in whether or not to perform their tour of duty. They certainly had nothing to do with the political side of the war, yet they did not receive the rounds of applause to which most returning soldiers are accustomed.

While many of them are now advanced in age, it is still easy to remember the days of their return to America upon which many were quite literally spit upon. This was piled on top of severe PTSD suffered by many of those who served. These Vietnam veterans were called to service before they fully understood what was happening, and called back home just as suddenly. With few connections to the growing political movements against the war that were occurring stateside at the time, they had little expectation of how rejected they would be upon their return.

While some could be bitter over the immense amount of praise received by other soldiers, some are thankful that no one else must go through what they did. With few exceptions, today’s war protestors maintain a level of respect for the actual human beings who risk their lives for their country. Vietnam veterans may never receive the degree of honor they wish they had received upon their initial arrival back in the states, but at least they can see the public conscience growing in a way that will prevent others from experiencing it, the Reno Gazaette-Journal reports.

Vietnam veterans and the way they were treated opened the eyes of many in retrospect who realized that the soldiers in a war do not create the war itself. Now, even if a person does not agree with the reasons behind a conflict, they can still honor those whose heroism is put to the test daily by forces beyond their own control. It is a kindness that most Vietnam veterans did not receive, but one which just about all of them can respect.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE