It was forty years ago today that US involvement in hostilities officially ended in Viet Nam. After being conflicted about writing on this subject all day, I finally could stand it no longer.
Part of me reacts rather cavalierly because the “end” of that war was only the beginning of lives of torment for too many of my friends. A few are still around and rarely spend a day without memories and can never escape the physical scars from their experiences. So, is the marking of forty years anything more than a reminder that pain can last for forty years and more? OK, we already knew that.
On the other hand, commemorating anniversaries is an effective way to make sure that our fallen brothers are never forgotten. In spite of there being relatively little national attention given this anniversary, there were many of us who have not and will not forget this day. Perhaps some others did notice.
Then there is the irony of this being Good Friday. Not quite sure what to make of that, but it kind of creeps me out. The juxtaposition of a very bad yet highly significant event in the lives of a major religion in this country with another very bad day in the history of this country seems to add another level of conflict.
On a very personal level, I have always had some angst over being technically a Viet Nam era veteran because I enlisted earlier in the month of March forty years ago. It’s an odd distinction, one which I did not even claim until recently. But, after a few decades of reflection, I came to appreciate the simple fact that even though our involvement ended within weeks of my enlistment I received my initial training from folks who were still in war mode, many of whom had served in or near Viet Nam. It was a perspective that served me well for the rest of my military career.
Having served through that transition period from an at war military to a peace time military afforded me all sorts of good lessons. Many of those stayed with me while others are mostly forgotten. Except on days like today.
Today I remember all my trainers and those who trained them who did not make it home. And each of the individuals represented by the names on the Wall. You, and all who served before and after you, are not forgotten.