The newspapers came out with stories of desperate criminal acts by a small percentage of the men serving over there. Names like Captain Medina, Lt. Cali and My Lai were burned into the consciousness of Americans. Vietnam vets were characterized as dope smoking, heroin shooting, anti social misfits that couldn't hold a job and who were prone to dangerous outbursts and violence. The job market was tight already, and once it were known that you were a Vietnam Vet, the chances that you would be chosen above someone with the same qualifications that had never been to war were ridiculously low. Many Vietnam Vets came home from the war despised and feared by the very people that sent them there. These men became what they were expected to become, anti-social people that backed off from the rest of society. Some went for therapy; some went to self-help groups. The government had to make it a crime for employers to discriminate against veterans. The veteran's hospitals were understaffed and under-funded. It was a miracle that so many survived not only Vietnam, but also their return to the nation that sent them to war.
Now we are faced with another war that is just as unpopular as Vietnam. I already see the anti military faction growing louder and larger with each passing day. I know that it is human nature to rail against those that are fighting the war, but the people who are criticizing the military must remember that the military is but a tool. Just like a gun, you can't hold it responsible for harming another human being. The person that picked that gun up and aimed and fired it is the responsible party. The people in the military have no real choices. I have read articles cajoling military people to refuse service in Iraq. This is really a desperate option for a military person to do. While it still is an option, it is not something that should be advised by someone that is not in the military. It's easy to tell a military person not to serve, but there are not many consequences to the advisor and dire consequences to the military person that heeds their advice.
I was brought back to all of this by seeing Jane Fonda at the March last Saturday. She was so wrong in my opinion, to allow herself to be used by the North Vietnamese who at the time of her visit were mistreating and holding American POW's in terrible conditions. Again, it was the military person that suffered for her involvement. Civilians try to weigh in on the subject but it is really difficult for a civilian to understand. Jane Fonda did more than embarrass the government; she also waylaid the peace talks and slowed the release of so many American POW's by siding with the NVA and giving then "good" press. She bolstered their flagging morale at the expense of the POW's. This is something I still get angry about from time to time. Jane Fonda did not do any Vietnam Era Veterans any favors by speaking last Saturday. It only brought back the disregard that the American people still have for our military. That is why I asked other Veterans to weigh in and write how they feel about this. I still can't believe it happened.The day I heara military member being called a "pig" or a "baby killer" is the day I myself opt out of the peace movement.