I joined the army at age 17 in July 1966. I was certainly young, stupid, and innocent. When I got out in 1969 I was not old enough to drink and got kicked out of Caesar’s in Reno. I had certainly changed and was also perhaps a little less stupid.
I went to Vietnam March 9, 1967 and returned March 7, 1968, a long 363 days. The Tet Offensive of 1968 was a terrible surprise for which I still blame General Westmoreland. I was not a hero or a leader. I was often afraid and just a common GI of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. While in Vietnam I spent a week in a military hospital, not for wounds but for food poisoning (figures, the army cooks gave me bad canned tuna). I went and came back as a private (E4).
Being a Vietnam Vet in 1969 was not politically correct. At junior college one young lady spit at me and called me a baby killer. At least one other declined to go have a soda because I had not gone to Canada to avoid the war. And no one thanked me for my service or going to war. Two years ago Heather Rooney and Laura Neisius thanked me (thank you again ladies) and they were the first and only to do so.
Sometimes when I am in DC I stop by “The Wall” and say hello to friends and former colleagues. I never have understood why my name is not on the wall when so many smarter people are listed. Some of them could have been the Abe Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, or Albert Einstein of my generation. With all respect the Vietnam vets Senators Kerry and Gore are not of the same caliber but then few are. As Joel Osteen says, “if God has put a period on it then don’t make it a question mark.” I have finally quit asking why.