Our local military base held a Welcome Home ceremony for Vietnam veterans the other day
. I did not attend. No doubt the ceremony was meaningful for those who went but for not for me. When I came home from Vietnam I wanted done with the military. I did not want a parade or a ceremony. I still don't.
That's why I am uncomfortable being honored as a veteran. I didn't do much of anything except survive and not commit war crimes or otherwise fuck up. No great service to my country there (well, not committing war crimes seems like some level of service). I did risk my life at my country's order but I did so unwillingly, grudgingly, and with great anger. The experience certainly opened my eyes but in the end, it did my country no good.
When people say, "Thank you for your service" I want to say what service? Participating in an illegal war? Lacking the courage to resist? Carrying arms in a foreign country against an adversary who was no threat to mine? Not something I care to be reminded of by others. I don't forget.
As I scroll through memories of Vietnam I end up with the realization that the only real service I have given to my country has been to speak out against war as a veteran. So maybe the best response is to accept thanks as long as the offeror knows that my service is continuing one in support of peace after serving for a lie.
One of the disturbing aspects of the "thank you for your service" and "welcome home" for Vietnam vets is that these gestures somehow make the lies, deceptions, and mis-judgments of that (or our current) war go away. That by recognizing and honoring veterans' service Vietnam becomes a noble cause instead of the clusterfuck that it was. I don't begrudge my fellow veterans recognition for their courage and sacrifices in Vietnam nor would I deny them a welcome home but all the parades and thanks don't change the fundamental fact that the war was a colossal blunder.
For that same reason I am skeptical of the official 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam war
. I suspect that it will be more in the nature of the noble cause commemoration and will ignore the lessons of the war. Americans would do well to look beyond the official narrative to get the rest of the story
Labels: veterans, vietnam