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November issue
Honoring Our Viet Nam Vets

page 16-18

Editor,

I was initially pleased to see the “Honoring Our Vietnam Veterans article featured on the front page of Utah Boomers Magazine.

I say initially because as I read the article I was more than a little disappointed that irrespective of the author’s intent, it was nothing more than a rehash of the old stereotypical “Viet Vets as victims” less-than-accurate depiction media tripe.

In not one of the vignettes was pride in honorable service mentioned.  No mention was made of men who returned to become successful contributors to society and great fathers, husbands, employees, employers, successful businessmen, and patriotic citizens of this great country.  Men whose Vietnam service made them better people… selfless citizens and lovers of their country.

The author addressed (and even emphasized) negative experiences, wounds (both physical and emotional), and the apparent negative aftermath of combat service in Vietnam.  A reader would not even know if Fred, Doug, and Larry were even vetted as to their actually having served in combat in Vietnam.  Nearly 2,710,000 military personnel served in uniform in Vietnam (9.7% of their generation) and more than five times that many claim to have served in Vietnam according to recent census surveys.  I have no way of knowing if these men actually served as they claim or not, but regardless, their experiences are not the norm.

I want to go on record (having served two separate year-long combat tours in Vietnam) that their experiences are neither normal nor consistent with the many who did serve honorably there.  I regularly converse with Vietnam veterans of my acquaintance (from all services and ranks) and not one in 100 dwell on negative experiences.  Most have just dealt with difficulties encountered there, came home, and made good and productive lives for themselves as they provided for their families.

  • Do you know that 97% of Vietnam veterans were honorably discharged?
  • Do you know that 91% of Vietnam veterans say they are glad they served?
  • Do you know that 74% of them say they would serve again even knowing the outcome?
  • Do you know that Vietnam veterans have a lower unemployment rate than the same non-vet age group?
  • Do you know that Vietnam veterans’ personal incomes exceed that of our non-veteran age group by more than 18%?
  • Do you know that Vietnam veterans are less likely to have served time in prison than our non-vet age group peers (less than ½ of 1 percent of Viet vets have been jailed for crimes)?
  • 1,713,823 of those having served in Vietnam were still alive as of August 1995 (census figures) and during that same census count 9,492,958 people claimed to have served in Vietnam (5.5 time more than actually served).

As of the August 2000 census survey the surviving U.S. Vietnam Veteran population estimate was 1, 002, 511.  Between 1995 and 2000 we lost an average of 390 per day.  As of that same census Americans claiming to have served in Vietnam was 13,853,027… nearly four out of five who claim to be Vietnam veterans are not!

The common myth is that most Viet vets were draftees… not so, 2/3 of those serving in Vietnam were volunteers (approximately 70% of those killed in Vietnam were volunteers) as compared to 2/3 of the men who served in WW II that were draftees.

I could go on and on…  Suffice it to say, your article did not honor nor properly represent the vast majority of those who honorably served in Vietnam.

We generally don’t care to share our combat experiences with non-combat vets because most folks have no frame of reference from which to make a connection.  But when we get together, we reverently and honorable remember our fallen fellow combatants and respect each other for the honorable and well motivated service rendered there in that hot far away land.

I began my military service in 1966 one month after I turned 18 years of age.  I am now 62 years old and respect and honor all those men who honorably served, sacrificed, and even died in that conflict.  A vast majority of them were/are good and decent men who do not consider themselves victims of an unjust or misguided war.  They answered their country’s call to serve.  They served honorably and they are proud of their service.

Some of the best people I have ever known I have served with in the military and specifically in combat in Vietnam.

If your intent was to honor Vietnam Veterans, you failed miserably.  It would be a great thing to honor them well and accurately… they deserve to be honored and your “attempt” was left wanting.

Sincerely,
Stephen Jackson
Father, grandfather, public school teacher, airport manager, and U.S. Army retired.
Cottonwood Heights, UT

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