Paul Dougan’s editorial on 8/7 criticizes rocker Chris Daniels for writing and singing a song about how vets from Vietnam were received. Dougan quotes research that there is no record of vets being spit on by war protestors. I don’t know Dougan’s nor Daniel’s personal experience, but I would like to share mine.
In July 1969 I was returning from a year in Vietnam and being discharged from the Army at Fort Lewis, WA. Within the first hour on US soil, on the bus ride from the air field to the Army post, protestors threw eggs at the bus and called us baby killers. Needless to say, there was outward hostility from the GI’s to the egg throwers. These were guys who were in combat three days earlier and were trained to fight. I personally sat still and took this all in, knowing I would be a civilian shortly.
I know nothing about spitting incidents, but there was in that war a protest connection between the warrior and the protest of the war. Even with the draft providing most of the troops. I’m pleased that our society no longer has that perspective. There is widespread respect and thanks throughout our society for those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, there is much more psychological and adjustment assistance for the current vets than forty years ago. The only career assistance offered to the group I returned with was booths from police departments of major cities wanting to recruit combat veterans. It is scary to think about the urban scene in 1969 and the fact that trained fighters were being recruited as police officers.
Another personal reflection stimulated by Dougan’s editorial was the wonderfully liberating experience I had returning my Army medals to the US Capitol steps in protest of that war. I felt like I was actively participating in democracy with that act. The actions of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War truly impacted public thinking about the war. At the time, I was a Federal Government civil servant in D.C. and visited the Capitol on my lunch hour. I know the public image of the protesting vets was long hair pot smoking misfits, so I dressed up in my pinstripes and deposited my medals and went back to work at my government job.
I would be very interested to learn of Daniel’s personal experience as well as Dougan’s.