Several years ago I wrote the following letter to my fellow Vietnam veterans.
Dear Fellow Vietnam Veterans:
I returned from Vietnam in 1970 after serving my time in country. We all had our own Vietnam. We all came back to our homeland in our own way. Since returning I have heard over and over again that the war was meaningless and wrong. I have also heard over and over again that we were murderers…that we failed…that we lost the war…that we were a disgrace.
Here is the truth. Our war contributed to the destruction of communism in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Our war saved millions of lives that would have been taken by communist despots around the world. Our war served the common good and pushed back evil…at least for a while.
Despite attempts by many of our fellow Americans to preserve communism by undermining our work, we prevailed.
Despite the fact that anti-war, pro-communist protesters contributed to killing more of our brothers and sisters than did the NVA and the Viet Cong, we remain standing proud.
Despite the fact that we were condemned upon our return to our country by those who never defended it, the truth has won out.
Let us never forget those who condemned us and let those who condemned us never forget their treason.
Let us never forget those that we left behind. They are the true heroes of our time.
Let us never forget to salute the flag that we defended.
And let us never forget our common success.
Let us never forget.
I wrote the letter because “over-educated morons” were continuing to demonstrate their ignorance of the facts regarding the Vietnam War. Many of those people were leftists who wanted to use the war as support for their antiwar rhetoric. In doing so, they were disrespecting all of the men and women who died in Vietnam as well as those who returned with the physical and emotional scars of war.
Once again the “over-educated morons” are rehashing the same old lies about the war. One such person is Jerry Lembcke, an Associate Professor of Sociology at College of the Holy Cross, who in 1998 wrote the book “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam”. The book argues that the common claim that American soldiers were spat upon and insulted by anti-war protesters upon returning home from the Vietnam War is an urban legend intended to discredit the anti-war movement. The farcical book also argues that posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a socially constructed diagnostic category.
Another “over-educated moron” is David J. Sirota, a “progressive” Denver-based political figure, radio show host and commentator. He is an author, book reviewer, nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, a Democratic political strategist, political operative, Democratic spokesperson, and blogger. He wrote a commentary that was published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune (June 8, 2012) entitled “The myth of the spat-upon war veteran”. In that commentary he basically just rehashed the false claims made by Lembcke.
Yet another over educated moron is a fellow sociology instructor at the college at which I teach psychology. He told his class that no returning Vietnam veterans were every spat upon. One of my students told me about that. I contacted the instructor but he never responded.
The fight goes on and I have a new hero in that fight. Bob Feist wrote a counterpoint to the Sirota article entitled “Disrespect for Vietnam vets is fact, not fiction” (June 27, 2012). Feist is an Army veteran and a retired Navy pilot. I am reprinting his article here in its entirety.
“I am a combat-disabled Army veteran who served in Vietnam in 1968-69. I was infantry, in the field, fighting the most misunderstood and unpopular war in American history. I’ve studied the history, and I’ve lived it. And David Sirota is wrong about the history and policies of that war and about the treatment of returning military men and women (in his June 8 article).
“Contrary to protesters’ claims, then and now, the Vietnam War did not begin without good reasons. It was a direct result of the 1945 Yalta Conference, where Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill agreed to abandon the Vietnamese (who had helped defeat the Japanese in World War II) and give all of Indo-China back to the French. Despite U.S. economic support and military advisers, the French lost the ensuing Vietnamese independence struggle and withdrew from all of Indo-China. Vietnam ended up divided.
“In the era when the North Vietnamese invaded the South, the world was facing Russian colonialism, the spread of communism, nuclear arms, the Cuban missile crisis and other threats to world peace. We fought to “contain” communist aggression and adopted the “domino theory,” believing that if one country in a region fell, the rest would. Although the history of the past 50 years is complex, it’s fair to observe that the spread of communism has been contained.
“We need to remember that it was the South Vietnamese government that lost their war, not the much-maligned American soldier. American service members did not suffer defeat, even though most of us felt defeated. Policy and politics out of Washington had failed, not the military.
“Vietnam vets were raised in a society that honored veterans. Despite Sirota’s contentions, Vietnam vets were a bit crushed coming home. We were not honored, but were treated as the face of an unpopular war. I am not aware of many Vietnam vets who were not subjected to some disrespect, either personal or from the culture that called us “baby killers.” We were shamed and embarrassed. My car (with a military base sticker) was “egged.” I bought a wig to hide my military haircut.
“The spitting on veterans was just a small part of the overall feeling of lost honor, but it was real, contrary to Sirota’s article, which appears to borrow heavily from a review of a book written by socialist and war protester Jerry Lembcke. In his purported study, Lembcke’s sampling was not random, it was statistically insignificant, and he stated that stories of spitting first surfaced in the 1980s. And he espouses that post-traumatic stress disorder was an invention of the government to garner support for the war.
“But Lembcke is refuted by many other sources, including Jim Lindgren, a Northwestern University law professor who cited news accounts that documented many spitting incidents. One example: A 1967 Bucks County Courier Times article reporting that two sailors were spat on outside a high school football game by a gang of about 10 young men. One of the sailors was stabbed.
• In October 1967, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter James Reston’s front page article in the New York Times described his eyewitness account of protest behavior so vulgar that spitting was the least of the transgressions.
• Even Medal of Honor recipients were abused and “spat upon as ‘monsters’,” according to the head of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, WWII medalist Thomas J. Kelly. Kelly recounted how about 200 anti-war protesters showed up one year to harass the Medal of Honor recipients at their annual dinner. WWII Medalist James Conners was unable to avoid a particularly obnoxious man yelling, “Killer, killer, killer.” Conners decked him.
• Other spitting incidents were reported by Pulitzer Prize winners Max Frankel in the New York Times (November 1969) and Carl Bernstein in the Washington Post (May 1970).
“Lembcke is an avowed socialist and has tried to use incomplete or dishonest research to lend credence to his government-as-pro-war conspiracy theories, to use the 9-million-plus Vietnam-era veterans as anti-war pawns.
“Let’s all stop listening to those who refuse to consider the facts. Our Vietnam experience ended more than 40 years past, and it deserves to be judged by history.
“I do not wish to have my record of service dishonored again.”
It is time that America learn about the Vietnam War and its veterans from people like Bob Feist who were actually there and who are not bent on besmirching the nation and those who served it. It is time for the “over-educated morons” to shut up.