Skip to comments.An Open Letter To Anyone Who Served In Vietnam
Posted on 05/28/2002 7:12:09 AM PDT by Sir Gawain
An Open Letter To Anyone Who Served In Vietnam
By Julie Weaver Published 05. 27. 02 at 18:50 Sierra Time
| Dear Hero,
I was in my twenties during the Vietnam era. I was a single mother and, I'm sad to say, I was probably one of the most self-centered people on the planet. To be perfectly honest, I didn't care one way or the other about the war. All I cared about was me - how I looked, what I wore, and where I was going. I worked and I played. I was never politically involved in anything, but I allowed my opinions to be formed by the media. It happened without my ever being aware. I listened to the protest songs and I watch the six o'clock news and I listened to all the people who were talking.
After awhile, I began to repeat their words and, if you were to ask me, I'd have told you I was against the war. It was very popular. Everyone was doing it, and we never saw what it was doing to our men. All we were shown was what they were doing to the people of Vietnam.
My brother joined the Navy and then he was sent to Vietnam. When he came home, I repeated the words to him. It surprised me how angry he became. I hurt him very deeply and there were years of separation - not only of miles, but also of character. I didn't understand. In fact, I didn't understand anything until I opened my newspaper one day and saw the anguished face of a Vietnam veteran. The picture was taken at the opening of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
His countenance revealed the terrible burden of his soul. As I looked at his picture and his tears, I finally understood a tiny portion of what you had given for us and what we had done to you. I understood that I had been manipulated, but I also knew that I had failed to think for myself. It was like waking up out of a nightmare, except that the nightmare was real. I didn't know what to do.
One day about three years ago, I went to a member of the church I attended at that time, because he had served in Vietnam. I asked him if he had been in Vietnam, and he got a look on his face and said," Yes." Then, I took his hand, looked him square in the face, and said, "Thank you for going." His jaw dropped, he got an amazed look on his face, and then he said, "No one has ever said that to me." He hugged me and I could see that he was about to get tears in his eyes. It gave me an idea, because there is much more that needs to be said. How do we put into words all the regret of so many years? I don't know, but when I have an opportunity, I take. So here goes.
Have you been to Vietnam? If so, I have something I want to say to you - Thank you for going! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please forgive me for my insensitivity. I don't know how I could have been so blind, but I was. When I woke up, you were wounded and the damage was done, and I don't know how to fix it. I will never stop regretting my actions, and I will never let it happen again. Please understand that I am speaking for the general public also. We know we blew it and we don't know how to make it up to you.
We wish we had been there for you when you came home from Vietnam because you were a hero and you deserved better. Inside of you there is a pain that will never completely go away and you know what? It's inside of us, too; because when we let you down, we hurt ourselves, too. We all know it and we suffer guilt and we don't know what to do so we cheer for our troops and write letters to "any soldier" and we hang out the yellow ribbons and fly the flag and we love America. We love you too, even if it doesn't feel like it to you.
I know in my heart that, when we cheer wildly for our troops, part of the reason is trying to make up for Vietnam. And while it may work for us, it does nothing for you. We failed you. You didn't fail us, but we failed you and we lost our only chance to be grateful to you at the time when you needed and deserved it. We have disgraced ourselves and brought shame to our country. We did it and we need your forgiveness. Please say you will forgive us and please take your rightful place as heroes of our country. We have learned a terribly painful lesson at your expense and we don't know how to fix it.
From the heart, Julie Weaver
Happens every year.
Fine. You're sorry. Just stay away...
And maybe it won't, but keep at it all the same. You'll never know what random act of kindness will make a difference in a world where no good deed goes unpunished.
Some of us have just learned how to cope too well to openly acknowledge what you do. Doesn't matter. Keep doing it. It's not about filling the gap in your soul, but selfless service to others. And if you're looking for a payoff, you're going to be eternally disappointed.
Besides which, none of us will be completely healed this side of His Kingdom.
And here I thought I was the only pre-teen Cronkite PO'd.
Thanks so much for posting it, Gawain.
Of a "foreign war," that is - that was what they told me as well (USN '70-'80) but that policy changed pretty quickly. There's all sorts of Viet vets in the VFW now.
I will always regret not serving my country in uniform.
We obviously didn't need them then, and we don't need them now.
I also know they are hurting for memberships right now but they made their bed, with me, and they can lay in it.
In the mean time I have served as a president of my local school board, the president of the local hysterical (my spelling)society and Co-op board member as well as president of my church council. Enjoyed all but the VFW didn't see any worth in what I did for my country (i volunteered) or my worth any time in their future sooooo you get the picture.
Chaplain (Major), USArmy (ret)
VietNam 1 Nov 67 to 1 June 69
(Field Artillery officer at that time)
It's hard to express just how intense the country's polarization was those days - many of us can report instances of abuse, the light-bulb full of red paint that nearly got me being only a minor example (at least I hope it was paint). What still rankles is that those dishing out the abuse, the campus smart-@sses who never had to go, have turned into a fairly well-defined political class that has learned nothing since - still maintains the same mindless collection of platitudes, stereotypes, and slogans pretty much unchanged from the 60s. These are the tenured radicals, the cosseted pundits, the Clintons being a perfect example - our self-proclaimed cultural elite. To me this is the most poisonous result of that very toxic period.
Many good programs promulgated by VFW. Let dead dogs lie, time to move on, reconsider, and join us. It is just flat wrong to blast and entire org for the actions of one chowderhead.
Ken "KB" Sherman
CDR, USNR (Ret.)
Patrol Squadron ONE
NAF Cam Rahn Bay, RVN
Except that Hanoi Jane has never actually said that she is sorry. She only moans about "how unforgiving" we are.
I guess Korean War (excuse me, Police Action) veterans would not be welcome at that VFW post as well.
The college I attended when I got out of the army was not a good situation either. I had nothing in common with the type of snot nosed brats who tried their best to ignore me or at least tolerate me.
My own university, USC, was perhaps the best place for a veteran to be in the early 70s. While they were actively burning draft cards, buildings, etc. at UCLA, SC had virtually no anti-war activity that I can remember. I can't speak for the earlier war years when war protest was a lot more frequent, but when I was there, nothing much was happening in the way of protest.
Vietnam veterans could recognize each other. We were a few years older than the vast majority of students. We were just a little more distant and leery of people in general. And we couldn't grow our hair long enough fast enough. This usually didn't register with the student body in general, except that we were, well, different.
It makes me laugh how camo-fatigues have become the trendy attire of choice on college campuses that last twenty years or so. Especially among kids who haven't earned the right to wear them. We wouldn't have been caught dead in a set of camos back then.
CAP2-7-5 III MAF
Its a commonly repeated story. Lots of my amigos say they won't have anything to do with the VFW because of it, and because of that the VFW is fading, quick. They're begging the VNV now.
Johnson did not try to win that war, he knew from the beginning that the was was not winnable, he knew it at the end, and he knew it in the middle.
Read his own words.
You had better have a strong stomach if you read why you were there though.
This statement is total BS. It is as stupid and inaccurate today as it was in the 60's. Every time I hear it, my teeth hurt and I get PO'd. There are two problems with it:
1.It is nonsensical.All of this is due to a democrat/socialist world view that remains unchanged today.
What this says is that a industrialized country of some 220 million people, with the world's most advanced industry and weapons, could not defeat an agricultural country of some 14-17 million people which could just barely feed itself, with only light industry (at best) and no weapons producing capablility whatsoever. Ridiculous on the face of it. We didn't win because the Democrat politicians didn't want us to win.
It has been said that we couldn't risk taking the war to North Vietnam because it might provoke a Chinese intervention as had happened in Korea. More nonsense. North Vietman was a Soviet client. All their arms, from the AK-47 carried by their grunts to the SAMs and AA shooting down our planes, came in by sea, which we controlled. The Chinese and the Vietnamese had been opponents for a millennia and the Chinese and the Soviets were in the middle of a very nasty split. A loss to the US in Korea was a loss in face to the Chinese; a loss to the US in Vietnam was a loss in face to the Soviets. This was known at the time. If the Chinese had joined the war in a major way, a la Korea, it would have been a slaughter. There is a choke point between China and Vietnam and weapons and tactics had evolved considerably from lessons learned in Korea. This, too, was known at the time.
It has also been argued that attacking shipping the sole means of resupply to the Vietnamese would have offended the neutrals who were trading with Vietnam (tough, Swedish iron ore ships in Hamburg in WW II were just as subject to attack as any other) or PO'd the Soviets into retalitory action. More BS. The Soviets had no vital interest in Vietnam. Vietnam's sole function, from the Soviet's point of view, was to distract the US and drain our treasury and our blood. This was proven by the Soviet's lack of reaction when Nixon finally mined the harbor at Haiphong.
2.It is false. We did win the war.
When Nixon attacked the North Vietnamese in Cambodia, it provoked an outrage in the media, among the democrats on the Hill, and on the campuses. More nonsense. Cambodia was, indeed, a neutral country. So were Holland and Belgium in WW II, but Germans were attacked in both countries wherever and whenever possible. Then Nixon mined Haiphong (see above). With their overland communications with South cut, and their resupply lines cut, North Vietnam had no choice but negotiate the best deal they could. And a very good deal for them they got: No occupation of North Vietnam; No monitoring of their future actions; No reparations to South Vietnam; Just a promise to "go and sin no more."
The only way South Vietnam would (or could) accept this was if the US promised to intervene if North Vietnam broke the treaty, which we did. Thus ended the 1st Vietnam War in 1973.
Nixon was forced out of office by a Democrat congress in 1974. In 1975, having had two years to rearm and regroup, the North Vietnamese invaded South Vietnam in a straight forward armor/infantry attack (exactly the kind of attack the US was best trained and equiped to repel). Thus began the 2nd Vietnam War.
To repel this attack and violation of the "Peace Treaty" the US had
What the US did not have was the will to respond to its obligations. Flush with its victory over Nixon, the pusilanimous Democrat congress not only forbade the use of US forces, which were available, but also even denied Pres. Ford the ability to resupply ammunition to the South Vietnamese,
- Ground forces available; the Marines in Okinawa.
- Naval forces available; a carrier group in the South China Sea.
- Air forces available; The USAF could come from almost anywhere.
Not surpisingly, deprived of support, deprived of ammunion,
deprived of hope,
the Republic of VietNam fell.
Why, I wonder, is there a "Little Saigon" in Arlington, VA, but no "Little New York" in Hanoi?
I apologize for this being so long, but I am tired of being branded a "loser" when I and my buddies fought, and won, I do not accept any statement of an "unwinable war." It was "winnable" and we won it. The Democrat politicians, and their media allies, lost it.
Which is why there are "Little Saigons" in Arlington today.
xsysmgr MACV '65 & '66
I can give you a hundred quotes directly from Johnsons mouth that he never thought he could win the war. He said if he pulled out of Vietnam, he would personally go down in history as the first president to lose a war, and he did not want that. He was also afraid of getting impeached.
The Johnson tapes are avaiable to all. Listen to them, read them. There is no misinterpretation, no misunderstanding of exactly what he was doing.
Johnson was the aggressor in Vietnam, he kept his covert military actions against Vietnam secret from the american public in 1963 and 1964. The Vietnamese responded to our attacks, not the other way around.
Read the tapes, Johnson freely admits being to the aggressor, and to keeping his military actions, and plans for excalation, secret from both the american people, and from congress.
Johnsons entire presidency was taped, and now available to the public.
I can't believe some of the responses. The message is missed by some and they too are guilty of the same type of insensitivity.
I got called "baby burner " and was refused service at a McDonalds because I wore a uniform. I got over it although I still dislike Hanoi Jane immensely.
My mission now is to never let this happen again. I always will remember the troops and I will always welcome others who want to do the same.
If we don't learn from history, we are bound to repeat it.
Pfflier Vietnam class of '71
"It's going to be difficult for us to...prosecute.. a war that far away from home with the divisions we have here...I'm very depressed about it. Because I see no program from either Defense or State that gives me much hope of doing anything, except just praying and gasping to hold on... and hope they'll quit. I don't believe they're ever going to quit. And I don't see ..any..plan for a victory-militarily or diplomatically" LBJ to Robert McNamarra, June 21, 1965
Johnson knew from the beginning, knew in the middle, and knew at the end, that there was no winning in Vietnam. He knew before he sent in the first troops to die there.
It is his words, not mine.
On America's part in the assassinatin of Ngo Dinh Diem:
"They were ruthless people, sure. Ho Chi Minh was. But..it was ruthless of the United States government, with our boasted list of freedoms, to condone assination because you don't approve of a political philosophy" LBJ personal tapes on August 19, 1969 in Austin Texas, when writing his book :"Vantage Point".
On August 5, 1964, President Johnson called congressional leaders to the White House and told them that North Vietnamese naval vessels had flagrantly and without provocation attacked two US destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Johnson had the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution drawn up, and it flew through both the House of Representatives and the Senate with virtually no debate. On August 7, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution had been passed, continuation and escalation of military reprisals against the North were given congressional blessing. "In the heat of the Tonkin clash, the Administration had accomplished . . . preparing the American public for escalation" (Pentagon Papers, pg. 269).
"The Tonkin Gulf reprisal constituted an important firebreak and the Tonkin Gulf resolution set US public support for virtually any action" (study quoted in Pentagon Papers, pg. 269).
Several years later the Senate Foreign Relations Committee conducted an inquiry into the events of August, 1964. Senator Fulbright would later write that the Pentagon had misrepresented the actual event, and that the US had provoked the attack.
"Only when we began those later hearings on the Tonkin Gulf did it really begin to dawn on me that we had been deceived. In the beginning--before Vietnam, that is--it never occurred to me that presidents and their secretaries of state and defense would deceive a Senate committee. "I thought you could trust them to tell you the truth, even if they did not tell you everything. But I was naive, and the misrepresentation of the Tonkin Golf affair was very effective in deceiving the Foreign Relations Committee and the country, and me, because we didn't believe it possible that we could be so completely misled." (J. William Fulbright, The Price of Empire, pg. 107.)
LBJ, don't you just love him.
You are absolutely right. Johnson went to great lengths to hide his aggressive actions, not only from the american public, but also from congress. Read his exact words in the books I mentioned.
He intentionally lied, and mislead everyone with full knowledge that if the american people knew that he was making war, that he was planning war all during the campaign of 1964 while publically denying it, that the american people would not be for gettting into Vietnam.
Johnson also said that the people of Vietnam will win because "they want a revolution", and they will not stop until they get it.
When Ramsey Clark came in at the end of 1967, he asked what was the plan to win. There was no plan. No one in the Johnson, and for that matter the Nixon white house, ever intended to win, therefore , no plan to win.
In answer to the poster above, we did not win the war. Vietnam is communist.
You are right that we won all the battles, but we never won the war - big difference. Pham Van Dong said the same thing to Westmoreland after the war when Westmoreland said he won all the battles. The Vietnamese didnt care if they won all the battles, as long as they won the war - which they did.
Every american that died in that war, died for nothing.
It turns out, that the war protestors were right all along. The war protestors learned about the people of Vietnam, they learned that the Vietnamese would not support the dictator of South Vietnam, they knew that we could not win, all true. The people in the white house, and in the military, did not know anything about Vietnam, and they admitted it in their meetings.
The very few that did learn something about Vietnam, George Ball, were then excluded from Johnsons meetings, and had absolutely no influence from that time on. Johnson never wanted to be opposed with someone that knew that he was fighting a losing war.
If it wasnt for the war protestors, Johnson would still be there.
Nixons great plan, was to end the draft, and hope that because young college men would no longer be forced to fight thete that he would be able to keep fighting the war without so many protests. Yet, Nixon too, had no illusions about winning, and no hope of it either. Nixon only wanted a peace agreement that "looked like" we did not lose.