Veterans and the Vietnam War Contrary to President Roosevelt's campaign promise in 1940, young men and women still go to war (Colombo). All wars have harsh results to the service men. They were not only adults, but young adults. It was different than that of trench warfare in World War I. Although what happened to many men in Vietnam did happen to other men in other wars, the cumulative psychological effects were much greater. War, to be sure, is hell. There are other elements that make the Vietnam War different from and even worse than other wars.
It was marked to the extent of arbitrary killing. The veterans were perceived as intruders, murderers, and conquerors (Marin 177). Some men and women come home adversely affected with these wartime experiences often leaving scars that do not heal (Colombo). Many people like me do not understand the war.
Of course, we have heard that it was bad, but we do not know how the veterans were affected, and what the causes are. Before doing some research, the only thing I had known about the war is the fact that it was harsh. After more in depth study, I have found it to be more than just harsh. The Vietnam War has caused many problems for the veterans who served. The Vietnam Era began August 5th, 1964 and continued till May 7th, 1975 until then President Gerald R. Ford proclaimed an end to the "Vietnam Era" (Kulka 5).
The peak years of enlistment were from 1967-1969; the peak years for exit were 1968-1970 (Kulka 19). With over 2.8 million men serving in the war (Gelman 145), we do not realize the age of these fighting men. The average age of Vietnam fighting man was 19.2 years, compared with twenty-six in World War II (Gelman, 148). Twenty-five percent of them received a combat medal (Kulka 19).
That means that an estimated 728,000 men received a medal due to injury or for an act of heroism. These numbers help us to understand just how many people how many people have psychological affects due to the harsh involvement. By reading a passage from a letter of a Wichita, Kansas soldier to his mother, we can come to terms of just what service men and women were going through during the war. "There are so many Cong here that in three days we captured 12 VC and killed 33. Mom, I had to kill a woman and a baby I swear to god this place is worse than hell. Why must I kill women and kids Who knows who's right" (Kerry 455).
Reading letters such as this, we wonder why we have veterans with many psychological effects. One of the Most widely known psychological effects is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. It affects over twenty-five percent of Vietnam Era veteran (Kulka XXVII). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological condition experienced by a person who had faced a traumatic event which caused a catastrophic stressor outside the range of usual human experience (Parrish). "Twenty years after 'peace with honor' was declared in Vietnam, veterans continue to wage their own battle with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder", says Senator Alan Cranston (Kulka 1). Physically it creates monsters.
Monsters in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped (Kerry 457). Mentally it creates psychos. That is when Roth (not his real name) snaps awake, forced back to reality by the sound of his own scream. "Something just triggers it, and there I am- a 20-year-old kid in a firefight" (Gelman 148). I remember of a friend recently telling me about her father whom, when they go to dinner, must sit in a corner in order for him to be able to watch his surroundings and feel safe.
As an Army rifleman in Cambodia in 1970, Andy Grimes of Trenton, Tenn., dodged Viet Cong snipers and ambushes using bushes as cover, which later became victims of the defoliant Agent Orange. Of the physical effects, Agent Orange is the most know cause. Agent Orange is a toxin used to strip away jungle vegetation and to deprive North Vietnamese forces of concealed sanctuaries and staging areas for ambushes. There are 9,495 documented spraying missions flown from Air Force C-123 cargo planes dumping over 11.8 million gallons. What we know now could have prevented its use.
It has effects such as fatty tumors, light sensitivity miscarriages, birth defects, and fatigue (Gelman 158-159). Rockne Harmon and his brother Jim were exposed and sprayed with Agent Orange and told to hold their breaths. Now Rockne's son has lost an eye and can barely walk. His brother Jim has lost a twelve-year-old daughter to a rare lung cancer (Agent). This is just two of the many cases involving Agent Orange and veterans of the Vietnam War. Beyond the physical and psychological effects of the war, there are other problems.
The veterans who were lucky and returned home alive, did not worry a bit about anything, except for the fact that they were back on U.S. soil. One of the many talked about Vietnam War issues has been the outcome of the veterans who honored the United States during the war in Vietnam. Upon returning home, most found out to be unwelcome by the American society. An unwelcome return that of which was different from the warm welcome of World War II veterans. They were faced with banality. Murderers of young innocent children, psychos, and abusers of drugs were some of the stereotypes associated with the returning veterans (Dudley 145).
Not only did they have the face the problems of society, but also with the problem of the Veterans Administration losing their records. Veterans were having a hard time getting treatment for disabilities and getting credit for their actions. The task of healing a veteran of the Vietnam War Is not an easy task. It is a journey for both the healer and the veteran. The journey is full of many images being hazardous, empty, happy, and sad. It is a journey on a path to reconciliation (Hicks 4).
"Agent Orange". Online posting. PBS. 31 Dec. 1996 web. Colombo, Al. PTSD Information Al Colombo United States Veteran Information Non-Governmental.
28 Jan. 1999 web colombo / vets 2/ptsd. htm. Dudley, William, et al. "How has the Vietnam War Affected Veterans" How has the Vietnam War Affected Veterans: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven.
1990.145. Gelman, David. "Treating War's Psychic Wounds". Newsweek 29 Aug. 1988. Rpt. In "Vietnam Veterans Suffer from Psychological Problems".
How has the Vietnam War Affected Veterans: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. David Libender and Bruno Leone. 1990.146-159. Hicks, Pamela. The Grave, the Talisman, and the Walking Dead.
Atlantis Articles. 28 Jan. 1999 web. Kerry, John. Vietnam and America. Ed. Marvin E. Gentleman, et al.
New York: Grove Press, 1995. Kulka, Richard A., et al. Trauma and the Vietnam War Generation. New York: Brunner / Mazel, 1990.
Marin, Peter. "What the Vietnam Vets Can Teach Us". The Nation 27 Nov. 1982. Rpt. In "The War Developed Veterans' Moral Sensitivity". Ed.
1990.174-180. Parrish [SIC]. PTSD. 26 Jan. 1999 web.