Over 58,000 Americans Died in Vietnam, But How Many Really Lost Their Lives?

by James Glaser
April 17, 2002

It is easy to count the body bags as they come home in any war and then you can say "this" many gave their life for our country, but is that the whole truth? Is that really the total of lives given in that conflict or are there thousands that we don't count?

In Vietnam, to be one of those 58,000 you had to have died over there.

What about those that came home to veterans hospitals only to die years later from the horrible wounds that modern medical intervention can arrest for a time? What about those still in veterans hospitals after more than 30 years? Certainly these men gave their lives for our country, but they aren't counted.

Our government has decided that veterans, who from the effects of war are no longer able to handle life out in the public, will be taken care of in long term VA facilities. This is as it should be, but again these men have given their lives for us, but aren't counted. Also any Veteran that commits suicide is regulated to be just that, a suicide. The number of Vietnam Veterans that have taken their own lives vary from 150,000 down to 15,000 depending on which report you want to believe. No matter which report you use, none of these veterans are considered as causalities of war.

There are as of Sept. 2001, 90,107 Vietnam Veterans that our government rates at 100% disabled from their time in the service and thousands more, that are rated so disabled that they will never hold a job again. Even though these men and women have had their lives so changed by the war that they, in many cases have to really struggle with life, they aren't counted as those that gave their all.

There are thousands of veterans that have overcome incredible disabilities and are a real example to us all on what a person can do under extreme hardship, to live a full life, but it is also true that these people gave us so much of their lives that to not be counted is a real shame on us.

Governments want to keep the numbers of people that gave up their lives in a war as low as possible, both because they are the ones that send the troops and they don't want to see higher numbers and also because higher numbers destroy support for a war. Look at the Gulf War, very low casualty numbers, but when you add all those that got sick after returning the number soars to the thousands. Nobody in government wants to talk about the thousands, but will quote the low number that died in combat. Many Gulf War Veterans have given their life for our country, but they aren't counted.

When our President decides to start a war, he doesn't want to think about the total costs of that war, he just wants to win it. It isn't just the Veteran that gives his life, but what of his wife, parents, and children.

They give parts of their lives too. Even now the Veterans Administration has set up a program of benefits for the children of Vietnam Veterans, who suffer from "Spina Bifida", as a direct result of their parent being exposed to Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used in the jungles of Vietnam and sprayed on many troops.

When Congress appropriated funds for this War on Terrorism there were no contingency funds set aside for the future costs that our country will have to pay to help those that served in our hour of need. Veterans organizations like the VFW and the American Legion will have to fight for those who will surely need our help.

The costs of war in loss of life, disability, and money are always calculated on what happens today and the future responsibilities of our country because of this war must be taken up by future tax payers, our children and grandchildren. These costs, real as they are, never get calculated into the thoughts and cost considerations of any new war.

Constantly we hear that this war is costing one billion a month, but is that true or are we taking on billions in future costs in the responsibilities that we are incurring for our veteran care?

We can already see the division in combat deaths reported by our government. We have nine battle deaths, those others were just errant bombs, helicopter crashes, accidents, and that CIA man being not really in the military was not a combat death. Families suffer just as much no matter how a loved one dies, but Washington wants to play these number games.

Each and every war has cost our country more than the numbers show. The effects of war on every veteran in a conflict are spread out to his family and loved ones and as we can see in this War on Terrorism past wars can come back and cause devastating consequences for our country.

BACK to the Essays page.