SAN JOSE, November 10, 2012—America will celebrate Veteran’s Day this Sunday and many government employees will benefit as they get Monday off from work. Hopefully, all Americans could take some time over the three day weekend to express a deeper sense of appreciation and gratitude for the nation’s veterans. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily a given that there is a common sentiment of respect toward those who have served in the military of the United States.
Despite sentiment from those with little appreciation or respect from some quarters of the country, the U.S. military is what may keep the chaotic and destructive forces throughout the world in check. Without the U.S. entry into the Great War in 1917, that horrendous conflict may have had quite a different outcome resulting in lasting adverse repercussions and reverberations throughout the world community from that period in time. In World War II, the U.S. military faced even greater challenges to help in preventing even worse worldwide peril. At the end of those incredible global conflicts, America welcomed her embattled heroes back home.
However, after the Vietnam War, there was a serious change of sentiment towards America’s veterans. To many Americans younger than the age of 50, it may be hard to understand that there was any significant difference because the animosity and disrespect toward the nation’s military has been fairly pervasive in their lifetimes depending their exposure to such sentiments on college campuses or in antagonistic or unsympathetic communities or in facing adversarial anti-war personalities. But during and after America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, there was a notable difference in public sentiment towards returning veterans. Some were spit upon and cursed as they came back to reunite with their families and resettle into their communities.
To many this is surreal, but the question remains as to why such a shift in public sentiment occurred. Even after the Korean War, Americans felt high regard towards the returning vets. What was the difference between the men and women returning from Korea and those returning from Vietnam? Was Korea such a different country than Vietnam? Were there different reasons for the U.S. military being involved in Vietnam as opposed to the nation’s involvement in Korea? Was the U.S. military effort that much more brutal and destructive in Vietnam as opposed to the fighting that took place in Korea? In many respects, Americans became confused and seriously divided over what happened with U.S. servicemen going to fight in Vietnam. It is possible that as a nation, the country has not recovered from such a divisive time.
In fact, there are a number of differences with regard to the military in going to Korea and in going to Vietnam and it is a bit complicated. However, there are similarities and they are important in making sense of the realities. Harry Truman was president when the North Koreans invaded South Korea in June of 1950. He responded favorably to a U.N. Security Council vote to support the South Korean people. He sent U.S. troops. The world has since found out, after the fall of the communist Union of Soviet Socialists Republic, that Moscow gave the directive to attack the south. The North Korean dictator, Kim Il Sung, had been trained in Moscow and the economic and military capability to invade was backed by the U.S.S.R. Ironically, the Soviet representative on the Security Council could not veto the vote to help South Korea since he was absent in protest over the U.N. refusal to admit the People’s Republic of China.
President John F. Kennedy committed to follow President Eisenhower’s policies in support of the South Vietnamese government and sent thousands more U.S. troops as advisors to help the South Vietnamese government fight against the North Vietnamese who were under the guidance of the avowed communist, Ho Chi Minh. Kennedy responded to the communist threat of the takeover of South Vietnam by sending the U.S. troops but it was not prompted as a response to a request from the UN, but it came from Kennedy’s stance against communist expansion. He expressed it clearly in his inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Essentially, the United States stood alone in helping South Vietnam. The Soviets made sure that they would not repeat their mistake in Korea by ever letting the Security Council fulfill its essential purpose. But even worse, President Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963. He had been struck down in his prime, and he would no longer be able to speak on behalf of his policies. The war escalated under President Lyndon Johnson, yet he was not John Kennedy. Mr. Johnson had trouble articulating his predecessor’s grasp of why our military was in Vietnam. The war became messy and ugly. Moreover, it got messy and ugly in American living rooms as the American media fed the people a constant diet of war, as long as people consumed it.
It was from this time period that Americans became confused and unclear about what our nation was doing. Eventually, the college campuses became battlegrounds themselves as division swept through the major academic institutions. Marxist and Left-leaning professors and Socialist youth groups organized and spoke strongly against the government policies. Controversy and violence on American soil divided the people. Citizens questioned our government’s motives, second-guessed our military’s motives in many instances from the days of the Vietnam War, despite efforts aimed at assisting friends in their fight for freedom. Question this: Who stands for genuine freedom by sacrificing more than the United States of America?
After so much self-analysis and self-doubt, soldiers in uniform were seen as suspect and even viewed with disdain and contempt. This internal attitude exists within some segments of the population even today. People paying attention can think back to the comments made by Democrat Party politicians as recently as when President Bush was trying to execute the War on Terror. In 2004, Democrat presidential candidate, John Kerry, who had been a major opponent of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, was quite critical of the military activity in Iraq.
Such dissenting attitudes are easily tolerated in this country because of the Freedom of Speech. But, such openly adverse opinions expressed by supposed leaders, does a great deal to diminish the value of the brave men and women who are serving the country. It poisons the concept of self-worth for the men and women in uniform. Of course, now that the Democrats have control of the government, their pipers play a different tune. A bit hypocritical? Indeed. Maybe it is because the Democrats believe they are the only ones who can handle America in time of war. After all, from the days of Wilson up until September 11, 2001, when our nation was blatantly attacked by radical terrorists, the U.S. had been governed by Democrats when the threat of war, or war itself was thrust upon the country. So is it hypocritical when their Party representatives publically recently trashed our soldiers overseas? Not to them - such divisive rhetoric was just politically convenient and so much political hyperbole and persuasive political attack tactics.
Actually, if John Kennedy were alive today, it is likely he would not recognize his political party. From the days of his decision to send troops to Vietnam, we can understand that he was just doing what Truman had done in Korea. And, Truman had done what F.D.R. had done before him; and F.D.R. had done what Wilson had done before him when he sent U.S. troops to “make the world safe for Democracy.” American men and women have been called to action again and again to help the democratic world fight against the efforts of despots and tyrants. When the American presidents commit our troops to such a cause, such American youth should not be treated as pawns in political power plays. Who are the ones who suffer with such self-centered and Party-centric politically motivated antics? Definitely, our veterans and our men and women in uniform deserve better. They deserve to be well equipped and well prepared whenever they are called to action. And certainly, they need to be well respected and treated with genuine gratitude all the time, but especially on Veteran’s Day.
May God bless our men and women in uniform on this Veteran’s Day!
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