By Brian Bresnahan
The original thank you to Vietnam Vets I refer to in this column is in the blog post preceding this one.
When I was in Iraq, the amount of personal support we received from home was incredible. It caused me to reflect on the situation and realize the disparity between the support we experienced and the support experienced by those who fought in Vietnam.
I wrote about the differences and forwarded my thoughts, essentially as a “Thank You,” to all Vietnam vets. It was a “Thank You” not only for their service, but also a “Thank You” because their experience in and returning from Vietnam showed the American people how not to treat our servicemen and women. Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are the benefactors of the hard lessons learned by Americans which came at the expense of our Vietnam veterans.
Much to my surprise, that letter grew legs. It was read at many veteran’s functions and events. News stories reported it bringing tears to the eyes of some vets who had never been thanked for their service. When I got home, I had complete strangers calling me from across the nation to thank me for writing it. It was a truly humbling experience to have those I hold in such high esteem thanking me for showing my appreciation for their sacrifice.
My recent columns are reaching more people than I ever expected, and I am once again being contacted by Vietnam vets. They tell me to keep writing because they believe in our victory in Iraq and at the same time wish someone would have shown them this type of support. They wish there would have been loud voices standing up for them and their mission, countering those who desired an American loss in Vietnam. When someone who’s been through the hell of a place like Ia Drang calls to thank me for what I’m doing and encourages me to keep supporting our troops and our victory, I can’t help but stay in the fight.
I share those experiences not as a boast or proclamation, but as a testimonial to the powerful impact that pro-troop, pro-mission support can have on the outcome of a war, especially when compared to the negativity of anti-troop, anti-war sentiment.
That being said, it then stands to reason that those who served in Vietnam would understand as well as anyone the damage done by Americans who attack their own country, yet never criticize the enemy. That they would recognize the harm done by politicians who adamantly insist, despite evidence to the contrary, that we are losing a war and that we need to turn tail and run. That they would be sensitive to the effect the anti-war movement has on America’s potential for victory and the morale of our troops.
It doesn’t mean they all have to support the war, and I know there are some who don’t. It is their right to do so and I would never begrudge them their opinion.
But I do question two veterans in positions of responsibility, Chuck Hagel and John Murtha, who spew forth anti-war, sometimes anti-troop, positions. They should know as well as anyone that their statements portray the same attitudes that made the return from Vietnam a domestic hell for some of their fellow vets and forced America to lose that war.
After each major step forward by the Iraqi’s, election after election, and progressive step after step, Chuck Hagel has refused to acknowledge any success in Iraq. Instead, he follows a philosophy of the latest step being relatively unimportant, the next step as more critical, and then showers that step with doubt. Yet, when that step is made, there is no triumph acknowledged. Instead we hear the same: the step taken is irrelevant and that we are losing the war. His ongoing stand against any success in Iraq is reminiscent of the same anti-war domestic political posturing seen during Vietnam.
John Murtha’s attacks against the war and our attempts to defeat terrorists have been incessant. But, last week he spiraled downward, moving from attacking the war effort, to attacking our Marines in Iraq. He held his own personal media trial, immediately condemned, and then convicted the Marines being investigated for an alleged atrocity at Haditha. If the allegations turn out to be true, all involved should be punished accordingly. But to have immediately and publicly convicted the Marines the way he did, long before the investigation was even finished, let alone allowing the Marines a fair trial, was a disgusting display of his feverish pursuit of our defeat. His words and actions mirror those which were designed to and eventually created the internal discontent that forced our loss in Vietnam.
I think many veterans, as I do, look at those who have gone before and see them as a notch above us. As having endured more. As having sacrificed more. We hold them in higher esteem than we might ever hold ourselves.
But Hagel and Murtha are definitely off my list. Because of the Vietnam experience, they should know better than anyone not to do what they’re doing, yet they lead the charge to stir up enough anti-war sentiment to force our surrender. They lead the charge toward instilling courage and confidence in our enemies who know they only have to defeat the American will, not the American troops.