This image is of a man who served his country during the Vietnam War. I don’t know his name, but I know his face. I saw many faces like his during my time in Vietnam. I saw the tired, sad, depleted faces. But, I also saw the resolve, the strength, the commitment, the humor, and the power that we as Americans share.
This is a letter that I wrote to my fellow Vietnam War veterans many years ago. I want to share it here.
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 can tell you that Vietnam War veterans will never forget. I also know that most of the rest of this country has forgotten.
I work with Vietnam veterans who are still trying to return to normal life. Some suffer posttraumatic stress disorder. Some experience addictions-still trying to forget. Many of us are doing well, although we speak little of Vietnam.
Most Americans are treating returning Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans with respect and care. I hope that we will all continue to do so.
All veterans deserve at least that much.