I write today in the interest of remembering the veterans of the Vietnam War this Veteran’s Day. Recognition of these soldiers has been long overshadowed and is long overdue. Let us not allow them to continue to be forgotten. How have they been forgotten? Ask a school child about the Civil War, and they can tell you about the battle of Gettysburg and the freeing of the slaves. Ask about World War II, and they can tell you about defeating the Nazis and the invasion of Normandy. Now ask them to tell you anything that happened in Vietnam. The silence is deafening. Most probably couldn’t even find Vietnam on a map. That’s wrong.
I’ve spent time over the years speaking with various Vietnam Veterans I’ve come across. It’s not uncommon to reach a point in the conversation where they ask me questions like ‘Why do you care?’ ‘What’s so important about all this?’ ‘It’s ancient history, why bring it up now?’ Their skepticism is understandable considering their mistreatment. It’s hard to explain to children now that there was a time veterans didn’t come home to yellow ribbons, congratulations, and discounts at the local big name hardware store. Vietnam Veterans were shot at in war, only to return home to be cussed at, spit on, and denied service when they went out. That’s wrong.
There is a great deal that has been wrong for far too long. The solution, fortunately, doesn’t require billions of tax dollars. It requires only a little of each of us. Sit down with a Vietnam veteran you know. Ask your father or grandfather, your neighbor, friend, or coworker. Ask them who they served with, when, and where. Ask them what they saw and experienced.
Remember what they tell you, so that you can pass it along to your children and grandchildren. When your grandchildren ask what their great-grandfather or their great-great-grandfather experienced, don’t let the silence be deafening. Let them know as much about the defense of places like Saigon, Danang, Kontum, and Dak To as they know about Gettysburg and Normandy.
It’s been difficult coming up with an answer to the veterans’ questions of why it’s important, why we should care, and why to bring it back up. I can only say that it’s not important just because it’s a part of our national history. It’s not important solely because it’s a war story. It’s also important because it’s a part of your story, and you are important to us. No matter the story, we’re proud of you. Thanks Dad.
Thomas Gunshannon III
Son of a 299th Combat Engineer.