Reflections on Viet Nam versus Iraq

On June 14th, I was asked to host the breakfast at the American Stock Exchange celebrating Flag Day and the 233rd Birthday of the United States Army.  I was once again surprised by how few of my generation had served. There are only roughly 15 veterans of any of the services in an exchange population of almost 1000.

During the course of the breakfast and the roughly two hour visit, I was struck by the fact that there was a tremendous difference between how the current members of the Army and other services are being treated compared to my service time in the late sixties. As the Army representatives walked around the floor, they were cheered and thanked profusely for their service. Many members of the Exchange stopped trading in order to shake hands with the Army contingent. When I mentioned the warm response to the Lieutenant Colonel and the Command Sergeant Major, they both commented that the same thing happens in airports and even on the streets> While both were warmed by the welcome, they both expressed some embarassment. The command Sergeant Major had joined at the end of the Viet Nam Conflict and remembered how different those times were.

I related my experience returning home in 1969. Upon release from the Army in late May, I caught a plane from Seattle Tacoma Airport to Boston. My wife was about to graduate from Mt Holyoke College where she had finished her senior year while I was overseas. I was dressed in uniform with the bloused boots and Overseas Cap(known by another name) typical of US Army Airborne. Upon arrival on the Mount Holyoke Campus, I found my wife’s dorm. Walking up the front steps I encountered two young ladies. They proceeded to spit on me and call me a pig.

Whether one agrees with either the Viet Nam War or the present War in Iraq (and I don’t particularly agree with either), I am more than pleased that the bulk of the American population are supportive of those who serve. During the Viet  Nam Era a large portion of those who served were conscripted. While I volunteered, those who were drafted didn’t deserve the abuse they took. They were simply doing their duty. The present military are mostly volunteers (the National Guard might be seen as reluctant volunteers ) and deserve our unqualified support.

Thank you to all who serve and thank you the American public who support them openly regardless of you view of the Iraq War. We are better for your support.


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