Most soldiers in the Army today were born after the Vietnam War ended.
That includes me, too, and I was in the Army 20 years ago. I was born about eight months after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
For modern soldiers, most of what is known about Vietnam has been gathered from history books or movies like “Apocalypse Now” or “We Were Soldiers.”
While such sources give us a glimpse into what Vietnam was like, the real tale of what life was like for American soldiers in the unpopular war is best told by those soldiers themselves.
As our government and area organizations have officially begun to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, I’ve begun a concerted effort to listen to as many Vietnam War stories as I possibly can.
Last week, I had the honor of visiting a group of 1st Cavalry Division Vietnam veterans from around the country as they toured a hangar on Fort Hood, getting a glimpse of modern Army helicopters.
Most of the guys were in their 60s, and were retired or nearly retired. Soon, their stories will begin to die off, just like so many of our World War II veterans.
I’m glad there’s an effort underway to commemorate the efforts and sacrifices that so many soldiers made during the Vietnam War.
And I want to make this perfectly clear: If there are any Vietnam veterans who want to share their story, please give me a call or email me.
I understand Vietnam was quite unpopular, both during the war and in the years afterward.
And it’s pretty shameful how the country treated veterans after they came back.
However, the country has changed for the better.
Nowadays, there’s an unwritten policy, that no matter how popular or unpopular a war may be, we, as a nation will support our troops.
I’ve read such statements on computer screens, in newspapers and on bumper stickers for more than a decade now.
And, I would hope, veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have felt that support going back to Sept. 11, 2001.
However, that lesson of “supporting our troops” really goes back to Vietnam.
In light of everything, it was wrong how those veterans were treated.
And the country learned from its mistake.
Today, Vietnam veterans are honored.
And if you keep reading the Fort Hood Herald this year, you will see it time and time again.
Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the Fort Hood Herald editor and military editor of the Killeen Daily Herald. He was stationed at Fort Hood and served with the 1st Cavalry Division from 1993 to 1996. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7468.