As the daughter, aunt, niece, and cousin of so many veterans through the years, I am proud to be writing this article as Curtis A Smith VFW Post 1033 celebrated the Vietnam Veterans at the post home on March 19th. We also honored two 101-year-old World War II veterans – John Owens and Frederic McCormick.
Post-Commander, Shawn Wright, gave a heartfelt speech honoring Vietnam veterans and veterans from other wars. The following are some comments extracted from her presentation.
The Vietnam war began in secrecy, it ended 30 years later in failure. Witnessed by the entire world. It began in good faith by decent people out of faithful misunderstandings, American overconfidence, and Cold War miscalculations. And it was prolonged because it seemed easier to muddle through than admit that it had been caused by tragic decisions, made by 5 American presidents, belonging to both political parties
For those Americans who fought in it, and for those who fought against it back home, as well as those who merely glimpsed it on the nightly news, the Vietnam War was a decade of agony. The most divisive period in America since the Civil War. Vietnam seemed to call everything into question – the value of honor and gallantry, the qualities of cruelty and mercy, the candor of the American government, and what it means to be a patriot. Those who lived through it have never been able to erase its memories.
The ancient Greeks called the effects of war Divine Madness
It was called Soldier’s heart in the Civil War
Shell Shock during WWI
Combat fatigue in WWII
Following Vietnam, it was called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Commander Wright closed her speech by sharing the following poem written by Vietnam Veteran Tim O’Brien.
They shared the weight of memory.
They took up what others could no longer bear.
Often they carried infections
They carried chess sets, basketballs, Vietnamese-English
dictionaries, Insignia of rank, Bronze stars and purple Hearts,
plastic cards imprinted with the Code of Conduct.
They carried diseases, among them malaria and dysentery
They carried lice and ringworm and leeches and paddy algae,
and various rots and molds
they carried the land itself – Vietnam.
They shared the weight of memory.
The place, the soil – a powdery orange-red dust that covered
their boots and fatigues and faces.
They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere. They carried it –
the humidity, the monsoons. The stink of fungus and decay – all of it.
They carried gravity. They moved like mules by daylight. They took
sniper fire; at night they were mortared.
They crawled into tunnels and walked point and advanced under fire
But it was not battle, it was the endless march, village after village.
They marched for the sake of marching.
They plodded along slowly, dumbly, leaning forward against the heat,
unthinking, all blood and bone, simple grunts, soldiering with their legs,
and across the rivers and up again and down. Just humping.
One step and then the next and then another.
Vietnam veterans are everyday people made extraordinary by events beyond their control. They did their duty, not out of bravado or oddness, but a sense of duty and because they had a deep and abiding love for their country.
Quite simply, they believed in the promise of the American dream and the essential goodness of America. Vietnam veterans fought to preserve democracy and freedom, not just here in America, but for all freedom-loving people around the world. The freedom and prosperity we enjoy today are in a large part guaranteed by all of those who served so honorably in Vietnam.”
The ceremony concluded with the recognition of all World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veterans.
We thank VFW Post 1033 for honoring these Vietnam Veterans on their special National Vietnam War Veterans Day. We, as Americans, are forever thankful to all of the Vietnam veterans for their unselfish devotion and their courageous willingness to put their lives at risk. We salute these veterans and all men and women who fought so bravely for our freedoms and the opportunity to say we live in the greatest nation in the world. God bless America and all veterans.