Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Vietnam . . .

This morning, I saw Pammy Pam's post on V is for Viet Nam, listing books about that war for younger readers. Throughout the day, I've thought about that long ago era when young men were drafted into the Army and went to Vietnam as they were told -- to contain communism.  

Here's what I know.

Those who were drafted were impossibly young.
Many were black and Hispanic and poor.
Some were patriotic. Some believed they were doing the right thing, that their government needed them.
Maybe they dreamed of being soldiers.
Atrocities occurred. Not all were reported.
This was a real war with guns and blood
and war crimes. We used napalm
that fell on soldiers and civilians.
We used saturation bombing.
We sprayed Agent Orange on the jungles as a defoliant, so the enemy could not hide its troop movements.

Some men in a single moment called up bravery somehow,
when a decision to shoot or not shoot meant death.
Many of those who served came home with nightmares
and a distrust that has been very slow to heal, 
nearly 50 years later. 

At home, a very few protested against that war. 
They faced repercussions, 
sometimes the loss of family, friends, and country. 
My sister attended a peace rally in Los Angeles; 
she saw protestors arrested and bludgeoned by police.
I read that 125,000 left the U.S. for Canada.
Their protest began maybe
because they refused to be drafted, 
or because they believed this war was wrong.
The protest became a national movement and helped 
to end American involvement. 

Since the Vietnam war ended, so has the universal draft;
these facts should be remembered:
Average age of soldiers during the Vietnam Era: 23.
Of the 1.5 million Americans who served in Vietnam between 1963 and 1973, 58,220 were killed; 150,000 were wounded.

We withdrew from Vietnam in 1973.  
We lost that war. We did not stop the spread of Communism.
South Vietnam reunified with North Vietnam. 

Numbers of Vietnamese exposed to dioxin/Agent Orange: 4 million. Effects of our use of dioxin continue today.
We can only estimate the numbers of Vietnamese
(and Cambodians, and Laotians) who were killed and/or wounded during this war, or whose lives were transformed,
as the lives of our soldiers and their families 
were irrevocably affected. 
I would rather write about peace, 
I would rather believe that peace is possible,
but today, V is for Vietnam.