At the end of World War II, our returning fighters were lauded as hero’s. For those returning from Vietnam, it wasn’t that way. Times have changed and so has public attitude. On November 11th, today’s veterans will hear “thank you for your service.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, why didn’t those who fought in Vietnam receive a proper reception upon returning home? As President Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnam war, the more divided America became. When he took office in November 1963, there were 16,000 American troops in Vietnam. By 1968 there were 500,000. Some were drafted, others enlisted. Many returned in body bags–58,220 died in that conflict. For the living, coming home was not good. Some were literally spit upon or otherwise derided. As they returned from overseas, some men changed out of their uniforms to avoid being assaulted in airports or other public places by anti-war activists.
One page in history puts into perspective of how this sad state of affairs developed. Hollywood’s Jane Fonda, now 80 years old used her celebrity to help lead a crusade against America’s military and Vietnam involvement. She traveled to Hanoi in 1972 and met with the enemy as our soldiers and airmen were being killed or maimed by them. This photo shows her sitting at the gun site of a North Vietnamese artillery piece. For this act, she earned the moniker, Hanoi Jane. Years later, she said she was wrong to do that. In some circles her apology has been accepted, and she is now applauded as a climate change warrior. In other circles, there is no forgiveness, especially among those who slogged through rice paddies, met the enemy face to face and may not have come back whole.
In betraying our fighters, she was not alone. The rage against the war and its soldiers ranged from relatively peaceful demonstrations to violent destruction of property or life threatening attacks.
In our country, elected officials start, prosecute and end wars. The military’s task is to follow their orders. Anti-war radicals directed their animus not only at the government, but at those men and women who put their life on the line. Today there is no draft. But during Vietnam, you were required by federal law to enter the military, or volunteer to avoid being drafted. The alternative was to go to prison or escape to Canada. Some anti-war groups believed that soldiers were criminals, and were duty-bound to leave the country.
Today, that has changed.
A Clark Lake Vietnam war veteran, Walt Reed, comments that soldiers don’t start wars. “Warriors are your sons and daughters who fight because they love our country—because it is their duty. To blame warriors for the wars they fight is to blame your sons and daughters for that war. Veterans day is the perfect opportunity to thank our sons and daughters for putting their life on the line for our country. It is always appreciated when you see a veteran and say, “Thank you for your service.”
Clark Lake has several veterans living among us. Two years ago, this website produced a video in which some of them told their stories. It has become one of the most watched on the site. Included are a World War II veteran who passed away a year ago, three Vietnam veterans, an officer who served in Korea, and two others.
Patriotism is not lost here. Here, Clark Lakers expressed it on Independence Day with the Pledge of Allegiance.
Finally, here is a rendition of the National Anthem you will not forget. The first verse is always sung. In this version, you will hear the parts of the other verses including the inspiring fourth verse that centers firmly on traditional American values. Verse one asks the question. Verse four answers it.
Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Last year’s Veterans Day story on this website had a remarkable turnabout. To read it, please click here.