Sunday, September 3, 2017

Vietnam Veterans "A more visible subset of aging warriors" too often overlooked

Vietnam Veterans Do Not Debate Why They Risked Their Lives
Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
September 3, 2017 
"Many who served came home and got on with their lives, whatever the wounds and scars of war. A more visible subset of aging warriors sits astride motorcycles in Veterans Day parades or stands in the median strips of our streets holding cardboard placards. They live their lives as war survivors. They ponder what might have been." James Reston Jr. LA Times September 3, 2017

At least he got close on the years Vietnam claimed the lives and bodies of those sent to Vietnam.
"There are two Vietnam wars, and the second is still going 40 years after the first ended. The United States fought the first one from 1959 to 1975 in the jungles, villages and airspace of Indochina." 
    The first American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Air Force T-Sgt. Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr. He is listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having a casualty date of June 8, 1956. His name was added to the Wall on Memorial Day 1999.
It went on claiming lives a lot longer than most think. Oh, no, not just the almost 20 years they were there, but for all these years they've been home.

The obvious deaths tied to Agent Orange are only part of their story. The truth is, they are the largest group of veterans still alive in this country and 65% of veterans over the age of 50 are also the highest for suicides and homelessness. 

Here are the numbers from Florida.
Fast FactsFiscal 2016 data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA reports there are 21.3 million veterans living in the United States.
  • Note: Florida has the third largest veteran population in the nation, behind California with 1,755,680 veterans and Texas with 1,670,186 veterans.
  • There are 1,139,764 wartime veterans in the State of Florida.
  • There are 393,541 peacetime veterans in the State of Florida.
  • There are 65,941 World War II veterans in the State of Florida.
  • There are 144,445 Korean War veterans in the State of Florida.
  • There are 496,526 Vietnam-era veterans in the State of Florida.
  • There are 190,446 Gulf War veterans in the State of Florida.  (1990 to 9/11/01)
  • There are 173,469 Post-9/11 veterans in the State of Florida  (9/12/01 to present)
  • There are 773,284 veterans in Florida 65 years of age and over.  (There are 737,698 male veterans 65 years of age and older and 35,586 female veterans 65 years of age and older.)
With Ken Burns documentary on The Vietnam War , the debate over "why" has reheated. The one thing no one should debate is what they risked or what they achieved when they came home to a nation that did not care they came home.

This is why they did it. This is why they risked their lives over there. They did it for each other. This is why they took their own pain, swallowed their pride, or what was left of it, and caused such a commotion in Washington over PTSD, that they had to respond. They funded all the research the civilian world has been benefiting from ever since.

Ever wonder where psychologists came from? Mental Health therapists? Trauma Centers? Crisis Intervention Teams? It all goes back to them and the fact they were not about to stop fighting for those who shared the same suffering surrounded by ambivalence, ignorance and judgement. 

Vietnam Veterans of America clearly stated their purpose despite the way these veterans were treated.  



We elected three Presidents who made sure they did not have to go when it was their time to serve along side of them. 

The questioning centers on the fall of 1969 when Bill Clinton was headed back to England to complete a Rhodes Scholarship. It seemed unlikely that his draft board would defer him again. He tried and failed to win Navy or Air Force commissions that might have sent him to Vietnam, though not as a grunt soldier. Then he signed up for a Reserve Officer program that kept him out of the draft.A few weeks later, on Oct. 31, his draft board, having learned he had changed his mind about R.O.T.C., reclassified him 1-A, theoretically exposing him to call-up. Only on Dec. 1, when his birth date came up 311 in the brand new draft lottery, was he safe against worry.He may have felt safe even during that exposed November. Draft calls had been reduced and graduate-student deferments were about to be restored. Taken in isolation, the Clinton record could thus be read to show manipulation and delay. But in fairness, his behavior needs to be compared with that of his peers.

Vietnam was clearly a crucible for Bush, as it was for Bill Clinton, Al Gore and most other men who left college in the late 1960s. Bush maintains that he joined the National Guard not to avoid service in Vietnam but because he wanted to be a fighter pilot. Rather than be drafted and serve in the infantry – an assignment Bush has acknowledged he did not want – he agreed to spend almost two years in flight training and another four years in part-time service.

But after he graduated from college in the spring of 1968, making him eligible to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, he received a diagnosis that would change his path: bone spurs in his heels.The diagnosis resulted in a coveted 1-Y medical deferment that fall, exempting him from military service as the United States was undertaking huge troop deployments to Southeast Asia, inducting about 300,000 men into the military that year.The deferment was one of five Mr. Trump received during Vietnam. The others were for education.
We built walls to honor their sacrifices and carved their names in stone. We also built a wall separating them awareness of the American people regarding suicides they seem all to ready to give to charities for while those same charities have cut them off from the help they have been waiting longer for.

We built another wall taking their families and disregarding the fact they have been their caregivers for decades yet are not worthy of the Caregivers support Congress seemed so proud of giving to the OEF and OIF generations.
So let the reporters continue to focus on what separates those who were sent to Vietnam to fight a war no one was sure of why they had to go for. We can tell them why they risked everything and still do to this day. THEY DO IT FOR THEIR BROTHERS AND SISTERS!