Applying the lessons of Vietnam #2: Honor veterans

Lessons from Vietnam as applied to Afghanistan and Iraq:

#2. Honor veterans when they return; honor the soldiers while they serve. One of the great errors of Vietnam was the failure to hold parades for returning soldiers. Regardless one’s views of the war, or its justness, or its execution, the soldiers who served deserved thanks, kudos, and a warm welcome back. They also deserved top-notch medical care for their injuries, physical and mental — Bob Dole, John McCain, Daniel Inouye, John Kennedy and others stand as monuments to what returned veterans can do for the nation when welcomed back and given appropriate medical care.

Vietnam was just a repeat of the error, however — Korean War veterans also got no homecoming parades. The Korean conflict is in fact known to some as “the forgotten war.” So we have more than 50 years of bad habits to break in figuring out how to honor our soldiers and veterans. We as a nation have not gotten it right for a very long time.

Honoring the veterans does at least two beneficial things: It helps the veterans readjust to life, if only a little, knowing that people at home appreciate them as individuals, and that people appreciate the sacrifices they made to serve the nation even when those sacrifices are so great as to be beyond comprehension.

It also helps citizens at home recognize and realize the depth of the sacrifices — a critical need in an era when, as historian David Kennedy notes, a thoroughly professional, volunteer army means that so few decision makers in Congress and the administration have family members serving in war zones, and when so little sacrifice is asked or expected of people who at home. Honoring veterans is a small but significant step in fixing the asymmetrical problem the U.S. has with a standing professional army, and the way that army affects the people who ultimately are responsible for it, the voters.

(I’m not making this point so well as it needs to be made; there is much discussion, mostly opposing my point, at Dadmanly from some months ago. Ultimately, the air around discussion is so tainted right now that even a call of support for the troops from anyone opposed to Bush is regarded as a “call for an Iraq pullout” regardless the details. If Nancy Pelosi negotiated for the European Union to provide 150,000 troops to relieve the U.S., AND got the Sunnis and Shiites to agree to stop shooting and rebuild the nation, Bush and the Republicans would call it “cut and run.” That’s part of the problem.)

The second thing honoring veterans does is separate out our love of our fellow citizens, our wives, husbands, daughters and sons in uniform, from our discussions of foreign policy — and it sets the stage so they can be full participants in that discussion. One of the unwarranted but too often made assumptions is that every person in uniform is part of President Bush’s political team. The same assumption was made during Vietnam, and it was patently untrue, as untrue when Lyndon Johnson was president as when Richard Nixon was president. Such assumptions provide an easy way to devalue any statement of opinion of a veteran: “Oh, he’s just biased and defending his own biases and errors.”

Failing to listen to the troops was one of the key failures that led to many of the mistakes of the current wars. The only member of the Bush team with practical and substantial military experience, Colin Powell, was shunted to a position where that military experience would be less valuable, and then he was ignored for being out of his field in the closed-door discussions.

Experience may differ, but it is all valuable. The Colin Powells of the world should not be shunted aside in any case. Their advice should not be ignored in any case. Our honoring the troops sets the stage to be sure that they will be respected as humans enough that the rest of us will pay attention when they tell us their opinions.

So, honoring the troops is a feel good for the troops (we hope); honoring the troop is essential for the rest of us, who need to hear what the troops have to say.

In Iraq, our nation ignored almost every lesson taught to us by Vietnam. We were able to do that because Vietnam troops were not honored, and were often actively dishonored.

Some of the most egregious dishonoring of the troops was done by people in positions of power who pay lip service to the troops while dishonoring them behind their backs, or who dishonor the troops openly. The unholy demonizing of Vietnam vets John McCain, Max Cleland, John Kerry and others, is part of a syndrome of disrespect for those with the information we need to have, a syndrome whose spread was actively pursued by President Bush for crass political ends. The rest of us should not have let that happen.

4 Responses to Applying the lessons of Vietnam #2: Honor veterans

  1. […] This was a bit more important in the earlier days of our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.  So I wrote about one of the lessons we needed to improve on:  Honoring the people who serve, regardless our view on the entire […]


  2. takayo says:

    I loooove Christmas. It’s the only time of year I like materialism and consumerism, the rest of the year I hate it…LOL
    I love everything about it, the food, gifts, decorations, music, movies. I love spending money on Christmas


  3. David H. Marshall says:

    On DOD “designed to harm” programs the R&D injury evidence is not in the VA “schedule of ratings for disabilities”. It also is not in the subject’s Medical History! Therefore, the “may not review” evidence is not available for all past, present and future victim diagnosis and treatment: 1. By civilian Health Maintenance Organization and VA Physicians’! 2. For use as evidence during any U.S. Executive (DOD & VA) and Judicial Branch processes! 3. For the U.S. SENATE Report’s from 1944, now 63 YEARS lost lessons learned. Which is each “to harm” group’s long term injury treatment for its documented “hundreds of thousands”! [5] The subjects’ never the wiser become.

    Now in YOUR Medical History?
    This is as recorded by the 2006 established civilian Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)! [7] Under its “NATIONAL SECURITY MISSIONS” is the advancement of the Department of Defense (DOD) Project SHAD “Biomedical” lessons learned. [6] BARDA also lacks the Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) oversight and accountability for its experiments. As was SHAD, BARDA experiments will be under the “security” cover of our nation’s wars. In 2007 duplicated is the U.S. Senate’s DOD 50 years of conducted on “hundreds of thousands” “experiments that were designed to harm”! [5]

    Each “to harm” project completes the Research and Development (R&D) process. Prior R&D is reviewed, e.g., The Project SHAD experiment. The resulting Scope of Work defines what each experiment is “designed” to accomplish. The how, where, when and who is spelled out. The conducted RESEARCH cause and effects are closely followed and recorded. From the results DEVELOPED is safe production, in-the-field use, treatment and protection. AT THE TIME, AND LONG AFTER THEY ARE OUT-OF-DATE, THIS REVEALING EVIDENCE IS NOT PART OF A SUBJECT’S MEDICAL HISTORY.

    The 1994 U.S. Senate Report’s NOTES (No.’s 72, 168 & 169) cite, “The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code, Human Rights in Human Experimentation..” [5] Not addressed is the many conducted in disobedience of the DOD Secretary’s 1953 ‘Nuremberg’ order; “The Nazi Doctors” pages 343-345. [2] With the Secretary’s of all U.S. Military Services and the DOD R&D Board then known! This ignored order was TOP SECRET until 1975, 22 YEARS LATER. The subjects are prevented from finding out, by its “need to know.” As under the in 2007 BARDA “NATIONAL SECURITY MISSIONS”. The 1994 Report noted that rights be restored. To-date not done!

    The 12 July 1973 National Personnel Records Center fire destroyed “to harm” service records. Congress’s 12 December 1974 Privacy Act censored the names of all witnesses from surviving and future records. “The court may not review the schedule of ratings for disabilities or the policies underlying the schedule.”, i.e., the needed for treatment “designed to harm” results! [5] The Veterans Court Chief Judge’s statement during 17 & 18 Oct. 1994. [4] His severely restricted 12/18/88 established ‘no teeth’ court is Congress’s oversight and accountability response to the 6/25/87 STANLEY. One of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on: 1. The 1950 FERES Case that prevents recourse on DOD “harm” as “incident” to service. [1] And 2. The DOD 6/25/87 STANLEY 1953 order disobeyed 1958 confirming Case. [3] The 1st an “incident” and the 2nd an “experiments” decision. Made very clear is that UNLESS CONGRESS CHANGES IT, BY REASON OF MILITARY SERVICE VETERANS’ LOST ARE PRIOR TO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. Thought is that the DOD and Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) “disabilities” coverage provides remedy.

    H.R. 4259 [109th]: Veterans Right to Know Act to establish the Veterans’ Right to Know Commission bill was proposed in Congress the last two years. At the end of each session all proposed bills and resolutions that haven’t passed are cleared from the books. This bill never became law. A now 63 years and still waiting!

    Will BARDA’s needed for treatment evidence be part of YOUR Medical History?

    A political few’s for the greater good, end justifies the “designed to harm” means. Make the checks and balances within and between our branches of government work! Only when you hold your members in the U.S. Congress responsible will this happen!

    [1] Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135, 146 (1950)

    [2] DOD Secretary’s 26 February 1953 NO non-consensual, human experiment’s Memo pages 343-345. George J. Annas and Michael A. Grodin, “The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code; Human Rights in Human Experimentation” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). In REFERENCE [5] as NOTES 72, 168 & 169.

    [3] U.S. SUPREME COURT, JUNE 25, 1987, U.S. V. STANLEY, 107 S. CT. 3054 (VOLUME 483 U.S., SECTION 669, PAGES 699 TO 710). In REFERENCE [5] cited in NOTE 169.

    [4] Chief Judge and colleague statements, Court of Veterans Appeals, Annual Judicial Conference, Fort Meyer, VA., 17 & 18 October 1994. http://www.goodnet. com/~heads/ nebeker.html

    [5] December 8, 1994 REPORT 103-97 “Is Military Research Hazardous to Veterans’ Health? Lessons Spanning Half a Century.” Hearings Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, 103rd Congress 2nd Session. With NOTES 1 to 170.

    [6] “Project 112 (Including Project SHAD) Home”; shad/ Starting in 1962 DOD chemical and biological experiments.

    [7] Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Signed into law 19 December 2006.


  4. Great post. I am the director of a small but dedicated group of veterans in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Our group is called Veterans for Better Health Care and is composed primarily of Vietnam era veterans. We organized about 2 1/2 years ago to fight the closing of the inpatient beds at our VA Hospital.

    I have two blogs now: Berry Street Beacon and Veterans Voice. I just started Veterans Voice with the hope of honoring our veterans and keeping veterans issues in the public’s eye.


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