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Anti-War Shouldn't Mean Anti-Military

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I hope that this country never goes back to the anti-military nation that it was during the Vietnam Era. I served during that time, and I'll be the first to tell you that it was not a fun thing to have done back then. The senior military, usually the people that were above Buck Sergeant and over 30 years old were basically for the War. If they had reservations about it (which I'm sure they must have had) they kept it to themselves. The younger GIs that were drafted and were for the most part against the war represented everything that the older, more conservative career military man hated. Being in the service (any branch) during the Vietnam War was to live life as a pariah, to live in a 24-hour double bind. Your superiors hated you because you represented the youth of the nation that was almost unanimously against the war and the military, and to the civilians, you were the military they despised. You were clobbered when you were on duty, and you were clobbered off duty. This rolled up with the expectation that you should give your life willingly for the very people that hated you was a hard and painful way to live. It is no wonder that when a member of the military came back from Southeast Asia with all the brutality and carnage that they witnessed, and the memories of dead buddies that didn't complete their tours, that they came home different.Some came home with that thousand yard stare, some came home and didn't want to talk about it, 56,000 didn't come home at all. Twenty-four hours earlier they had been on a perimeter of a firebase, with the red mud caked on their boots.Listening to the shout of "incoming!" Then, suddenly, they were at an airport out side of San Francisco watching a group of guys and girls in their teens calling them baby killers and flipping them off.

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.
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Tim Gatto is Ret. US Army and has been writing against the Duopoly for the last decade. He has two books on Amazon, Kimchee Days or Stoned Colds Warriors and Complicity to Contempt.

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