March 28, 2016
Where were you when they came home? Sure the nation wants to make up for the way Vietnam veterans were treated when they came home decades ago, but from what we've shown them, they haven't seen much evidence that we really care now.
How could they believe they matter at all when all across the nation more and more folks talk about veterans committing suicide and never once bother to mention they are the majority of those suicides?
America wasn't there when they came home from Vietnam because Americans just didn't care to make sure this nation took care of them.
Some say they didn't know what was happening to them and they point to social media being used today to make them aware of the need. They didn't have any of this back then, but just like when all other generations came home before them, the people managed to learn about their needs simply because they wanted to. With Vietnam veterans, they just didn't bother to even wonder.
Today is still not the day that Americans show up. Sure they are all doing their grand gatherings to commemorate the anniversary of the Vietnam War but when you look up the definition of what that word means you find this.
Simple Definition of commemorate
: to exist or be done in order to remind people of (an important event or person from the past)
: to do something special in order to remember and honor (an important event or person from the past)
If you look on the VA Website for the 50th Anniversary you'll see this interactive map of events.
This is for the Vietnam War timeline As you can see, Americans started dying long before the acknowledged date.
During April 1956, three U.S. Army nurses deploy to Vietnam to help train South Vietnamese military nurses. They are the first U.S. service women to arrive in Vietnam. About 11,000 service women would eventually serve in Vietnam. Eight die while serving their country in Vietnam. Of these eight, seven would be Army nurses.
Seven U.S. Air Force crewmen die when Pathet Lao anti-aircraft artillery shoots off the wing of a military transport aircraft and it crashes on the Plain of Jars in Laos. Major Lawrence Bailey survives and is subsequently captured. Bailey is released on August 15, 1962, and President John F. Kennedy presents him with the first Bronze Star Medal for service in Southeast Asia.And at the end of the timeline is this,
On 12 May 1975, a Khmer Rouge gunboat seized an American ship, the Mayaguez, in the Gulf of Thailand and detained its crew. Two days later, U.S. Air Force (USAF) helicopters landed Marines of Battalion Landing Team 2/9 (BLT 2/9) on Koh Tang Island off the Cambodian coast where the crew was believed to be held. Marines from Company D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines boarded the Mayaguez only to find it deserted. The Khmer Rouge released the Mayaguez crew, who were picked up by a U.S. destroyer at sea. On 15 May, with the recovery of the ship and its crew, the Marines withdrew from Koh Tang Island. The American forces sustained total casualties of 15 killed, three missing in action (later declared dead), 49 wounded and 23 Airmen (18 security police and five aircrew) killed when their CH-53 crashed while deploying. Enemy casualties were unknown. Lieutenant Richard Vandegeer, USAF, whose name is the last one on the Vietnam Veterans Wall, was killed on Koh Tang Island. This concluded the combat involvement of the U.S. military forces after two decades in Southeast Asia.
But when reporters said that Afghanistan was the longest war, most Americans simply accepted it and never thought twice about what that claim did to those who served all those years in Vietnam.
Just as today, most Americans accept that there are "22 veterans a day" committing suicide even though the report from the Department of Veterans Affairs states clearly "To date, data from twenty-one (21) states have been cleaned and entered into a single integrated file containing information on more than 147,000 suicides and 27,062 reported Veterans." on page 11. On page 14 there is this,
However, misclassification was considerably higher among validated Veterans with 11% of true Veterans classified as non-Veterans on the death certificate. Only 2% of true non-Veterans were misclassified as Veterans on the death certificate. The ability of death certificates to fully capture female Veterans was particularly low; only 67% of true female Veterans were identified. Younger or unmarried Veterans and those with lower levels of education were also more likely to be missed on the death certificate. This decreased sensitivity in specific subgroups can affect both suicide surveillance and research efforts that utilize Veteran status on the death certificate. From a surveillance standpoint, the rate of Veteran suicides will be underestimated in these groups.Followed by page 15 with this,
Currently available data include information on suicide mortality among the population of residents in 21 states. Veteran status in each of these areas is determined by a single question asking about history of U.S. military service. Information about history of military service is routinely obtained from family members and collected by funeral home staff and has not been validated using information from the DoD or VA. Further, Veteran status was not collected by each state during each year of the project period.
But that must have just been too much to read as well. After all, why bother to read a report with so much detail when it is so much easier to just quote a number that was easy to remember? The fact is, Vietnam veterans are the majority of the suicides that are not "22 a day" because their generation is also the majority of veterans.
The VA study found that the percentage of older veterans with a history of VA healthcare who committed suicide actually was higher than that of veterans not associated with VA care. Veterans over the age of 50 who had entered the VA healthcare system made up about 78 percent of the total number of veterans who committed suicide - 9 percentage points higher than the general pool.
So where are you now? Are they really important enough to matter to you? Do they deserve your attention and time to actually read the reports? Do you care enough to make sure the rest of the country learns the truth about what we've been putting them through while still ignoring their suffering?
If you really value Vietnam veterans then learn the truth and then live up to what they've been fighting for all these years, that no generation of veterans will ever be left behind again.