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.
This whole issue was incredible!
A special thank you to those who contributed and made this possible. To our veterans and active military; THANK YOU for your service. As my husband TRAV (a Marine veteran) said after seeing and reading this; “Oohrah!”??
While you make a point to discuss the challenges ofViet Nam veterans, I found your article disappointing and limited. Why not just concentrate on honoring those who made a great sacrifice and find ways to encourage people to remember veterans who have served so that we may enjoy our freedoms? Or all the opportunities to help them out?
My grandfather, David H. Gregory I lived in Clark Lake for many years-he served in the US military in World War I and saw the horror of the war firsthand. He died at the early age of 53 and is buried in Clark Lake’s cemetery. Not too many veterans are buried in Clark Lake in that small cemetery. He was a postmaster and postman after the Depression in Clark Lake. He lived on Hyde Road just a block or so from the lake. My grandfather was also born in the UK-he was adopted as a young boy after his mother died-his aunt and uncle in Michigan took him in and raised him.
I lived in Clarklake from 1950’s to early 1960’s, and attended Clarklake elementery school, which no longer exists. That’s why II have been subscribing to your foundation newsletter for a while to see snippets and reminders of my childhood, and this is the first article I find troubling.
The Viet Nam war was complicated on many levels. I live on the West Coast and have known many, many men who served in that war. So, to add to the unwelcome they got returning home from that war, today there is another problem for Viet Nam vets- a high number of Viet Nam veterans are homeless too. The state of the veterans hospitals today is truly shocking-having had a parent in a rural hospital was quite troubling to see the poor conditions of facilities-bare bone basics and staff trying their hardest to help veterans with a miserable amount of financial funding to keep things going. Despite the challenges and limitations, their staff is amazingly dedicated and to be much admired for the juggling of sparse resources.
The lack of treatment for veteran’s with PTSD who are committing suicide on a very high level-why aren’t they getting the help they deserve? I don’t approve of Jane Fonda’s actions, but I think your article left out the challenges veterans face right now-including being deported after serving in the military. I wonder what my grandfather would think of the treatment of veterans today?
Thank you for your time and attention,