I graduated High School in 1976. I didn't serve in the Armed Forces.
The Brotherhood of those of you who did, share something I can only view from a distance. Those of you who have been in the heat of battle share something, those who haven't, will never understand. Those who have had it, are changed permanently. You can't go back to the way things were before. I don't see it is a merit badge to be envied. It should be respected however in my opinion, by all who share from the sacrifices that were made on behalf of us all. Those who have fought and died to preserve this great nation, all to often come under criticism, by those who've sacrificed nothing.
Thoughts I've had over the last few weeks........
My wife and I recently finished watching the Vietnam documentary on PBS.
It was interesting. A refresher of a particular perspective from the media that even in the 60's, seemed to exclude what the US(and the rest of the world who recognized the threat), was up against. A sort of tunnel vision, that occupied the front page for the years I was delivering papers, and everyones mind at the time here in the States. It excluded the real enemy far to often. A sort of purposeful exclusion, many in the Press at the time, worked at keeping off the table. We can only contemplate their reasons. There were some at the time, who were willing to say. We were encouraged by many in academia to listen to their thoughtfulness and nuance(insert sarcasm here)
That enemy was a doctrine. A doctrine willing to sacrifice anything to achieve the very goals, intended to undermine the things free societies are built upon. Communism and Socialism mentioned in passing in the documentary, but not in a way that conveyed how ugly and desparate a belief it really is.
We saw it in the Korean war, where we went against an enemy that considered mass casualties, an acceptable thing. Human life had no value, but for the number of bullets and punishment it could absorb, as a means to an end. We didn't know how to handle it, other then to try and contain it.
An "end" where freedom and individualism are considered folly and stupidity. A society where State control of everything, is considered the only solution. The man named Le Duan in the documentary, was not afraid to enunciate exactly what he and the communist of the world wanted. Complete global domination. An end to free societies like that in the US, considered to be the problem in the world by the global Communist. Beliefs like ours in the US, that prevented the smothering domination of Communism.
That was what was at stake in Vietnam. Communist then and even now, consider world domination, to be the ultimate answer. An "ism" hell bent against individual freedom. As ugly a belief then and now, as what radical Islam preaches the only true path to be, today.
From the Documentary, an estimated 2,000,000 Vietnamese lost their lives in the war(I don't think they differentiated between North and South, in their counting, I could be mistaken though). All for an ideology that preaches paradise on earth, and only delivers starvation and deprivation.
Without a host to feed off of, and somebody to blame their failures on, communist have nothing other then pie in the sky promises. Never achieving fruition, only destruction of the society they seek to tear down, in hopes some mythical Phoenix, will rise in its place and fabricate a Utopian paradise out of the cloth of fantasy.
The US has long had a reputation for encouraging economic stability around the world, and has spent trillions of dollars and countless lives trying to prevent the destruction communism brings at every level.
The US has quite literally been the host feeding and nurturing communist tyranny, in hopes they will one day move away from the Statist ideals that help those at the top maintain their control, and enslaves billions to the idea the State will provide for them. Its a great plan, until the parasite devours the host. Or as Ms. Thatcher said, "Socialism works, until they run out of other peoples money". The China of today is a far different creature then that of the 50's, 60's, and 70's, but the root is still there.
The 60's were the height of the Cold War. A War almost always associated with Russia, but it was far greater then that. The enemy wasn't so much a particular country, as it was a destructive ideology. It was quite literally us against them. Not just in Vietnam, but all around the world. Vietnam was one of many battle fields, and was certainly the bloodiest for the US.
Communism which was struggling to get its feet under itself on a global scale before WW2, had been growing by leaps and bounds in the vacuum created after WW2.
Even today, the reality is popooed as some sort of nonsensical notion. A sort of "well yeah, but it wasn't that bad...."
Communism is such a great idea, they're afraid to let their victims get away. Only the most naive and myopic, entertain the idea it has merit. Sadly, when we play the numbers game, there is no shortage of naive selfish people, who think their lives would be better if the rest particularly those with money they want, just embraced the ideas of Communist domination.
The estimates of lives lost to Communism are over 100,000,000 over the last 100 years. People who were starved or destroyed by other means for either not following in lock step, or speaking out of turn. Many literally suffered and died in their ignorance. Believing what the idealist preached about the merits of a State ran society, where the individual is subserviant for their own good. Happy in the idea, somebody else would take care of them, if they could just get rid of the naysayers.
Life is always pretty good for "The Dear Leaders". The rest are completely limited by the small minded people who get to make decisions on their behalf. Individualism, is the bane of mass societies, or so the story goes, when Communist tell it.
I watched a movie a number of years ago, titled "The Seventh Dawn"(1964), that examined the period in Malaysia after the japanese were run out, as WW2 ended.
Even then, Hollywood couldn't put a name to what was happening. It was like an 800b gorilla sitting in the corner. Like they didn't want to offend a close friend.
There is a book titled "The War of the Running Dogs", that chronicles how the British and Malays defeated Communism in Malaysia, in the years before the US got involved in Vietnam.
Most here in the US, were ignorant in our isolation. Happy to be out of the fracas. We had our own problems, and WW2 took a huge toll. 1964 was less then 20 years from the end of WW2. Many were still grieving the loss of loved ones. We didn't want to look to far afield. A pretty natural reaction at the time.
It was not the days of instant news, we enjoy now. People had one phone on the wall, if they had one. There were 3 channels on the TV for most to watch(4 counting PBS), who didn't live in larger metro areas. If, you even had a TV. We didn't have one in our home, until I was almost 10. Even then, it was a used portable. Putting food on the table and a roof over our heads was a priority. Nose to the grind stone.
The realities of Communism are something even today, you have to dig to get at. People keep sweeping it under the carpet, hoping the next time they drag it out into the light, it will be improved. A sort of "Next time, we'll get it right" belief, that ignores what Communism and Socialism are. People embraces the uglyness, believing they are owed something just because they breathe. What would life in China, and or North Korea be like, without the vast wealth pumped into their economies, from the country that is home to the very ideals Communist around the world constantly rail against? What would a world without the US even look like. We are, "the shining city on the hill".
Some people would have us believe the lives lost in Vietnam, were wasted. Granted, there was plenty of blame for stupid mistakes made, which is typical of every war we've been in, but there are a whole lot of critics who are expressing their views against it, while living in the midst of the greatest free society ever, in my opinion.
I feel a great debt to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those who risked life, limb and sanity to preserve freedom and liberty and, "The greatest experiment in the history of the world" as we know it, when it comes to man governing themselves, instead of being smothered by a tyranny of some particular stripe or flavor.
I'm not at all sure what the world would look like today, without that sacrifice. I'm pretty sure we'd have been involved in another war by now though. A war much more costly and bloody then what happened in Vietnam. Vietnam showed the global communist, that if they wanted to continue down that path, we were quite willing to slaughter them on an even greater scale, then what happened in Vietnam, and we wouldn't do it on the ground anymore. Tyranny never sleeps. A new tyrant is born every day. The struggle to protect individual freedom and liberty will never cease.