I felt that some views of a Vietnam combat veteran would be helpful in getting a more personal idea of the subject: The following is an talk with a vet named "Rick".
Q. How did you end up in Vietnam, and why?
A. I had watched the war every night on TV news, and was always opposed to democratic nations being overthrown by communist, oppressive regimes. I felt I should support my country, ... it just seemed like the right thing to do. I enlisted while still in high school, and reported to Fort Dix, N. J. two weeks after graduation in June, 1967. By February, 1968, I had arrived in South Vietnam, two months after my eighteenth birthday.
Q. What did it feel like when you realized you were far from home, in a strange land?
A. When I arrived, the "Tet" offensive was in full swing and things were popping everywhere. Somehow, watching the TV news at home could not capture the fear and misery that you can only experience by being there ... not even close. War is a traumatic experience that cannot be comprehended by a person who is not involved.
Q. You say "war"? In my studies of Vietnam, I understand Vietnam was a "conflict"?
A. Call it what you want, but 57,000 dead Americans spells war to me.
Q. If you were president, what would you have done to end the fighting?
A. No question in my mind, I would have made moves to win, rather than play body count games, and let it drag on so long.
Q. What moves?
A. Capture Hanoi with a massive invasion, cut off all supplies from Soviet and Chinese bloc nations, and establish footholds in what was then a democratic nation, Laos.
Q. What are your feelings looking back on this experience, and what has occurred since our involvement?
A. I think about Vietnam every day of my life; it is something I will never forget. I regret that we did not secure the democratic nation of South Vietnam. When we pulled out, the North Vietnamese broke the Paris peace agreement and overwhelmed the South, and carried a massive holocaust into Laos and Cambodia, where they still are to this day. Ask the millions of "boat " people who have fled Southeast Asia, risking death, rather than live under the totalitarian government now in place in Vietnam.
Q. Thank you for your time.
A. My pleasure.
Note: Rick served in Vietnam from February, 1968 to February, 1969, as a helicopter crewman, 3rd of the 17 Air Cavalary, Tay Ninh.n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.