by Carolyn Abell
“No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. Rarely have so many people been so wrong about so much. Never have the consequences of their misunderstanding been so tragic.” – Richard Nixon from his book, “No More Vietnams”
Earlier this month the United States Senate declared March 30, 2011 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” This particular date was chosen because on March 30, 1973, remaining U. S. troops withdrew from Vietnam under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
In a resolution introduced by Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina and co-sponsored by five other senators, including Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, the Senate is encouraging Americans across the country to recognize Vietnam veterans for their sacrifice and to make them feel the gratitude of a country that sent them to fight. “It’s time they receive the recognition they have earned and deserve,” declared Senator Burr.
While Richard Nixon might have had his faults as President, the above statement about the Vietnam War is spot on. Largely due to intentional misreporting by anti-war press members, a number of myths and falsehoods were generated and have continued to be perpetuated about this war and the men who fought it.
Statistical evidence contradicts most of these lies. For one, the majority of Vietnam veterans declare they are glad they served (91percent), with74 percent saying they would serve again, even knowing the outcome.
In contrast to the popular notion that a great number of Vietnam veterans were drug users, a myth promoted by such movies as “Apocalypse Now,” information from the Veterans’ Administration indicates that there is no difference in drug usage between Vietnam veterans and non-veterans from the same age group.
The few isolated atrocities committed by American servicemen were blown out of proportion, causing the general public to wonder if they had evolved into savage and inhumane beasts reminiscent of the degenerate boys in “Lord of the Flies.” The truth is that while we had a few incidents, the North Vietnamese routinely committed such atrocities against our side—a fact that seldom got reported. Former service members such as Charles Henderson have documented some of the most heinous acts of torture imaginable inflicted on United States soldiers and Marines by a female North Vietnamese Captain, whose cruel and deviant brutality earned her the nickname, “Apache Woman.” Thanks to Carlos Hathcock, one of the most talented and self-disciplined Marine snipers of all time, “Apache Woman” did not live to make Major.
A 97 percent rate of honorable discharges among Vietnam veterans should quell any myths that they were largely lawless heathens.
According to a speech by Lt. Gen. Barry McCaffrey in 1993, 85 percent of Vietnam veterans made a successful transition to civilian life. General McCaffrey further stated that these veterans’ personal income levels exceeded their non-veteran counterparts of the same age group by more than 18 percent. He added that Vietnam veterans had a lower unemployment rate than the non-vet age group.
Another prevailing myth is that a disproportionate number of blacks were killed in the Vietnam War. Statistical evidence shows that 86 percent of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasians. Only 12.5 percent were black, while the remainder were “other races.” These percentages were in direct proportion to general population statistics at that time.
A lot of people think, too, that the Vietnam War was fought by the poor and uneducated. In actuality, these veterans were the best educated forces our country had ever sent into combat, with 79 percent having at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Many had taken some college courses or even earned a degree.
The survival rate of Vietnam veterans was also much higher than in previous wars, thanks largely to MEDEVAC helicopters. Pilots of these birds flew nearly 500,000 missions, airlifting over 900,000 patients. The average time lapse between wounding to hospitalization was less than one hour. As a result less than one percent of all American wounded who survived the first 24 hours, became fatalities.
Perhaps the highest testimonial to the quality of our Vietnam veterans, is that so many former draft-dodgers and cowards now want to claim credit for military service they never gave. And there is no greater insult to the ones who actually served.
I think the average American appreciates the sacrifices of all veterans. There is nothing more noble and honorable than serving one’s country in the armed forces. Vietnam veterans answered the call to duty, and they continue to serve today with acts of national patriotism, community involvement and serving in elected offices.
Make it a point this Wednesday to thank a Vietnam veteran. Tell him “Welcome home.”
Copyright 2011 Carolyn Abell