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Honoring Vietnam vets was a long time coming

March 30, 2012
Salem News

You've probably never heard of Richard Burr. He is a Republican senator from North Carolina. We didn't either until recently when he caught our attention - and complete respect.

The congressman is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. He introduced a resolution that the U.S. Senate heartily passed. Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day is being observed today. It is designated by our government to honor veterans who served in Vietnam.?It is deserved.

Those of us who grew up in the culture of the 60s and early 70s should vividly remember the anti-war rancor that spilled throughout and into every single crevice of our divided nation. You were either for our presence in Vietnam - or against it. There wasn't much of a gray area. It was the most unpopular war in the history of our country.

Those against it vilified our returning service men and women. Instead of gratitude there was sheer scorn. They were called scapegoats, even "baby killers." No patriotic-inflated ticker tape parades were held for returning Viet vets. No grand speeches on their behalf. The disgusting treatment remains an American tragedy.

"Our soldiers served honorably and bravely in Vietnam," Burr said. "Unfortunately, they arrived home to a country in political turmoil, and never received the recognition they deserve. By setting March 30 aside as a day to focus on our Vietnam veterans, we can show our unified gratitude for their service and the sacrifices that these veterans made on our behalf."

And history teachers should take note. "This day also provides our nation with an important teaching moment," Burr said. "Never again should our men and women serving in the armed forces receive the same treatment as those returning from Vietnam."

Amen to that.

Our country's engagement in Vietnam lasted a dozen years. We went from an advisory capacity in 1961 to deploying ground combat troops in 1965. Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, all U.S. troops were withdrawn from Vietnam 39 years ago today, on March 30, 1973.

War means death, destruction and injury. Vietnam was no different. It was different from other wars only in the treatment given many of our returning veterans. Over 58,000 members of our Armed Forces died during the Vietnam War. Over 300,000 were wounded. Many veterans today, over four decades after serving, carry wounds of psyche such the well-documented Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. We've all heard of Agent Orange.

Salem and the surrounding area has many Vietnam veterans. If you know of any, please pause today and thank them. This special day was a long time coming. It is deserved.



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