By editorial board • 

Not too late to welcome back veterans of the Vietnam War

Ceremonies around the nation this week commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and with them a widespread effort evolved to give the war’s American veterans the welcome they well deserved but often had to forgo at the time.

More than 9,000 organizations have joined with the U.S. Department of Defense to honor the nation’s Vietnam veterans on March 29. Locally, at the recommendation of the Yamhill Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, nine Yamhill County mayors proclaimed March 29 “Welcome Home Vietnam Veteran’s Day.”

The war erupted in earnest in 1954, initially pitting the communist Viet Cong forces against a French colonial army.

America later intervened in place of the French. More than 500,000 American troops were deployed at the war’s 1969 peak, and 58,000 American soldiers lost their lives — 14 were Yamhill County residents.

Returning home, soldiers often found themselves symbols of national tension, as many Americans had come to the conclusion our intervention in Southeast Asia was unwarranted and unjust.

“Some vented frustration on returning soldiers by scapegoating them with abusive language and even physical assault, leaving some veterans with lasting psychological scars,” Patrice Petersen, incoming regent at the local DAR chapter, wrote in a letter the mayors. While vilified by citizens, they were ignored by a government unprepared to properly care for its returning soldiers.

While a proper welcome home decades later can be perceived as too little, too late, Petersen said the DAR had “heard from veterans of the Vietnam War that this gesture is graciously accepted and appreciated.”

Vietnam veterans make up the largest sub-population of vets in America today. The 714 Vietnam vets served by the Yamhill County Veterans Services represents a majority of its caseload, according to Services Officer Jerry Wilson.

When Veterans Day arrives each year, Americans tend to focus more on the dwindling number of World War II vets, or the youngest generation of veterans in America. The country’s shame over the treatment accorded Vietnam vets has triggered a push to ensure the next generations of veterans — especially those who saw action in controversial wars like Iraq and Afghanistan — receive the respect and services they deserve.

But that’s not to say America should just tuck its tail between its legs when it comes to Vietnam vets. “It is never too late to try to right a wrong,” Petersen said.

We hope to see proclamations like those signed by local mayors, and Gov. Kate Brown, trigger fuller gratitude and appreciation for our largest sector of veterans. 

Comments

Lulu

There's also a lot of shame connected with that dirty, pointless war.

Jim

Like any of the soldiers that had to fight in that war had a choice with the draft at the time. The shame was on our government not the brave men and women that were sent there. I lost friends in that war and know many who came home with deep scars from what they saw there. We should be as proud of these people as any veterans that fought in any war to defend America.

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