Friday, March 20, 2020

Are You Still Grappling with the Viet Nam War

Carrying wounded soldier through a swamp. National Archives.
What really happened? The Viet Nam War was like nothing we'd every experienced before. It was a wedge the divided many young people from their parents, and others from their peers. Some of us died, some protested, and some left the country to avoid the draft. And many of us wish we'd behaved.

Did you go to Viet Nam and end up with Agent Orange health issues the rest of your life? Did you later regret your decision to enlist? Do you wish you'd done more for your country?

Did you protest the war? How did you first come to believe the war was wrong? In retrospect did you feel you were swept away by youthful idealism? Or do you wish you'd done more and had been more aware earlier than you were?

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Observation tower in Viet Nam. National Archives
I'm still attempting to understand a history that my generation lived through that remains unresolved. It seems like one of those things we don’t talk about much, like cousin Leah’s family secret.

Many of those who protested the war feel conflicted because they have friends or relatives who served. They don’t know how to place patriotism and feelings about an unjust war into a proper relationship.

We were told to believe what our leaders were telling us, while history has demonstrated and reiterated repeatedly that the war was a crock, a patchwork of lies from start to finish. Documents released decades later via the Freedom of Information Act confirm that the war was not only built on lies, but that the extent of the corruption and hubris was far worse than we imagined.

I recently wrote a poem about the death of a friend at whose funeral I was a pallbearer. Getting in touch with that pain showed me that I’d not yet fully processed that experience. The manner in which I continue to be drawn to reflect on the war shows me that this, too, is unresolved.

Maybe it’s not really possible to neatly package our experiences so we can put them on a mental shelf and be done with them. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have a hard time believing that I’m the only one who is still struggling to understand what we went through in the Sixties and early Seventies.

HERE IS A LINK to 14 articles I've written in response to various triggers such as Ken Burns' Viet Nam documentary, readings and memories of various memories from my youth.

What's your story?

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