The following accounts are by Vietnam War veterans who reveal a view on the meaning of war and military service.
Roger – USMC 1969-71
“Being a Marine is like being a member of a brotherhood,” said Roger, who works at the VA hospital in Battle Creek, Mich. Among the many tattoos on his arm is the Marine motto: “Retreat is not an option.”
“If you join the Marines you know it’s the toughest group in the military and that a lot of responsibility is heaped on to Marines, more than in the other services. You honor the flag, the president and never dishonor yourself or your mother. You know that the fellow next to you will take a bullet for you.”
“In the Marines you carry its values with you for the rest of your life, values like honesty, helping others, always being faithful to other Marines, taking care of your own….It’s a brotherhood.”
“Nobody wants to take a life but if the enemy shoots at you and you refuse to shoot back, what do you think is going to happen?”
“You won’t find veterans that believe in war, but you’ll never find a vet who doesn’t believe in his country.”
Roger suddenly realized at the beginning of the Iraq War that “our babies were fighting in a war.” He suddenly started to tear up. When he enlisted in the Marines in 1969, he was a baby, too.
“I guess my mother was really worried. She had four sons in the service at that time.”
Although he stayed in the United States during his service, when he returned from duty his reception was less than what he expected.
“I got spit at and had drinks thrown at me in bars because I was a military man.”
Nevertheless, throughout all these years Roger has remained firm of purpose regarding the Vietnam War: he and his fellow Marines did their duty. Yet, he showed some sympathy and understanding for those who treated him and his comrades so badly:
“They were just taking it out on us because we were in the military.”Art – USMC 1968-70
“When you’re 18 you think war is a big adventure,” said Art who enlisted in the Corps right out of high school because he had no other direction in life and “didn’t know any better.” After he finished his tour, he got a job at the U.S. Post Office where he’s worked ever since.
“When you get there [in Vietnam], you find out they are shooting real bullets.”
Art said he started questioning the idea of war in the spring of 1969 when he first went into combat. His life was forever changed.
He arrived in Vietnam just after the Tet Offensive and was assigned to a clean-up maneuver in the northern-most province of South Vietnam near Da Nang. He encountered many small skirmishes, but the happy-go-lucky extrovert said he soon adopted a cynical outlook on life.