Thirty Some Years Later and Some Days It Seems Like Yesterday
by James Glaser
Every couple of weeks I go to meet with a group of Vietnam combat veterans. We sit around and shoot the shit, talk about what is bothering us, what we have been doing, problems we have, and we usually end up talking about the war. . . . our war.
If you go to one of these meetings, and if you kind of look down at the floor and just listen, you would think you were talking to a bunch of twenty year olds, but that war was thirty some years ago. You look up and everyone looks pretty old. Thirty some years later and those experiences we had are still as vivid as the day we came back to the world.
Right away you can pick out the guys who still claim that we won that war, "at least we were winning when I came home." Nobody likes to admit that we lost, so you hear a lot about how we won the battles, but the politicians lost the war.
Then there are the guys who still think we were fighting to bring democracy and freedom to the Vietnamese. Sometimes I try and tell those guys that they are just repeating something that George Bush has said about his war in Iraq, and if they would study the history of the Vietnam War, bringing freedom and democracy to the Vietnamese people was never one of the stated reasons for the war. They don't buy that, because they are afraid that their time in combat was all based on a lie about an attack on an American ship in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Tonight at the meeting, one pro-war guy was saying that if it wasn't for the news media telling about all the bad stuff that went on, and never talking about all the good stuff we did, the American people back home would never have stopped supporting the war. He said it was that same way today, and we are not hearing about all the good things in Iraq. Everyone else at the meeting had the same thought at the same time, and we all looked up and asked him what was the "good stuff" we did in Vietnam. He couldn't think of any.
The meeting broke up soon after that, but one guy got in that over one million innocent civilians were killed in Vietnam. He didn't say we killed them or that the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong killed them, just the fact that during "our war," one million civilians were killed.
You could literally see each man stop and think for a bit. I was thinking about some of the dead civilians I saw, and I would guess that the other guys were pondering their memories too.
Somebody said war is hell, and if you live through one, you know they were right. Thirty some years later, and it sometimes seems like it was yesterday.
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