Monday, September 27, 2004

'I've Had It, and I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore...'

That was the common theme heard at a local gathering of vets last Friday.

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), part of PBS, asked Oregon Veterans for Kerry to invite some Vietnam vets to discuss their political views for an upcoming TV broadcast. About 20 vets met in a local bar & grill in Portland, including Jim Rassmann, whose life John Kerry saved in Vietnam.

OPB filmed and recorded our freeform discussions around several tables of a reserved party room. We were only asked to frame our discussions about what special characteristics Vietnam vets bring to the table for this election.

Were we stuck in the events of 40 years ago? Only for a few minutes of common reminiscing and laughing at ourselves. After that it got serious. We didn't need any cameras around us.

Some commonalities were soon discovered. It didn't matter that some had served only a couple of years as draftees or that others had served nearly 30 years in the military. Many of us had voted Republican for most of our lives, and for George Bush last time - but not this time. In my case, it seemed to me we share something else very important: we care very much about our military and the welfare of our veterans. Most of the comments made, including mine, may wind up on the cutting room floor, but none of us cared about that, once things got going.

Some of my thoughts that I expressed revolved around the appropriate cliche of 'been there, done that', paraphrased as follows:

In the first few years after Vietnam, many of us who stayed in the military often expressed this idea: If anything like the mistakes made in Vietnam were ever to occur again, we would do our individual best to step up and be heard in order to stop another disaster from enfolding our military and our country again. Many years have passed, and I don't think any us thought it would happen, but now is that time.

GIs returning from Vietnam were not welcomed back by their country - they were despised, often blamed for the failures of the war, and ignored for decades. The country painfully learned that, in the future, the troops needed to be supported, no matter what disastrous decisions were made by our government. They are our sons and daughters.

But the results of that initially misplaced blame are still evident today: for example, Vietnam vets are more than three times as likely to be homeless than any other group of people.

The real failures of Vietnam belonged to the president and the civilian leadership of the military:

* Massive failures of judgment
* Incompetent and unprofessional leadership
* Inflexible strategies and tactics that ran ran up the death and injury totals, and
* Wrong decision after wrong decision

Sound familiar? That's because it is, and a whole lot of vets are not going to take it anymore for this election without saying something - so we're letting you know how we feel about it.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link