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Letter: Vietnam War hits close to home

A unit of the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment U.S. Marines, rests alongside a battered wall of Hue’s imperial palace after a battle for the Citadel during the Tet Offensive, February 1968. The Marines reported heavy casualties in street fighting in the ancient capital city of Vietnam. As the country celebrated Lunar New Year after midnight on Jan. 31, 1968, communist forces launched a wave of surprise attacks that became known as the Tet Offensive and would change the course of the Vietnam War. — AP file photo
A unit of the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment U.S. Marines, rests alongside a battered wall of Hue’s imperial palace after a battle for the Citadel during the Tet Offensive, February 1968. The Marines reported heavy casualties in street fighting in the ancient capital city of Vietnam. As the country celebrated Lunar New Year after midnight on Jan. 31, 1968, communist forces launched a wave of surprise attacks that became known as the Tet Offensive and would change the course of the Vietnam War. — AP file photo

After reading Martha Muzychka’s Social Notes Jan. 11 column, “Vietnam War — no clear answers, even now,” I cringed with disbelief at the lack of clarity, research and comprehension attributed to a topic that has been flogged every which way but right.

The Vietnam War is one of the most well-known wars to have happen after both the First and Second World Wars. Vietnam is also the war that many people do not understand because the information given in the media was usually incorrect and full of biased facts.

The 10,000-day war — the Vietnam War — Martha so loosely wrote about through the perception of a 13-year-old teenager’s memory of historical news events and a game show TV host insinuates that a family reunion of a veteran with his family would be considered a “consequence.” To me, this reeked of non-partisan rhetoric. In reality, anytime a veteran is reunited in any form, with a homecoming that includes his/her family, is truly a blessing.

My immediate family originated from Topsail and had moved to Montreal during the mid-’60s. I remember reading the news in the Montreal Gazette about the Tet Offensive in 1968, an ambush by the North Vietnamese Army towards the people of South Vietnam, during a ceasefire period. This angered many a young man and prompted them to volunteer to American armed forces, from both Canada and the United States. I was 16 years of age when both of my brothers volunteered and enlisted into the United States Army in January 1969.

In the late 1950s, the United States was losing the Cold War and had entered into the Vietnam War. By 1965, half a million American troops were on the ground in an attempt to contain the spread of communism. Because of the Vietnam War, Southeast Asia did not become a Communist hot spot. The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand stayed free of Communist conflict solely because of the Vietnam War.

A common held belief that many American soldiers were drafted into the Vietnam War against their will is unfounded; only one third of American soldiers were drafted, with all others joining voluntarily. Approximately 100,000 draft dodgers ran for the Canadian borders.

In total, over 2.7 million American soldiers (including Canadian volunteers) served on active duty in the Vietnam War between 1964 and 1975. Approximately 550,000 were actual combat personnel.

I agree with Ms. Muzychka that the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall is an emotional memorial site. The wall commands respect and reverence for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, especially for those who survived the war in Vietnam and the war at home.

The war at home, fuelled by the protesters, media and government, was the worst part of Vietnam War history that should be deemed senseless. Never before and never again should a soldier returning home from a war be abused and disrespected by society as were the Vietnam veterans. When a society sends their warriors into a theatre of battle, then it is the duty of those civilians to peacefully welcome them home.

The Paris Peace Accord, which was signed in 1973, failed. The American combat soldiers left the Vietnam War in 1973 — they did not lose the war. The exit from Vietnam was basically the same scenario as the Korean War. The Americans went, fought, signed an agreement and left.

Saigon fell in 1975 due the Democrats of the 94th Congress of the United States of America who refused aid to South Vietnam just weeks before it fell to Communist control.
America had reneged on the contract of the Paris Peace Agreement and consequentially left South Vietnam without the munitions and tools necessary to fight and win their war.
The recent PBS documentaries on the Vietnam War lend, to me, a clearer insight of the years that my brothers spent in Vietnam. The documentary revealed the good, bad and ugly of a war that my brothers themselves could not reveal to me or my family. I felt a renewed pride and appreciation for each and every one of the “boys” who served honourably in the jungles of Vietnam.

I know there are a few Vietnam veterans living here in Newfoundland. Welcome home “boys,” and thank you for your service.

Cathy Saint John
Holyrood

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