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Week of: June 10, 2001

Vietnam Vets Deserve Thanks & Praise

by F.R. Duplantier

"The popular conception of a Vietnam War vet is that of a loser, a drug addict, a baby killer, or someone too stupid to have avoided serving."

Retired Marine Colonel Fred Peck points out that members of the baby-boomer generation who avoided service in Vietnam "were often among the most politically and socially active. Is it not natural," he asks, "to assume that they would have risen to the top in the fields of politics, government, education, and media? Perhaps it is, but the consequences for society may be far greater than we imagine," Peck cautions. "That part of the generation that did not serve now controls the agenda for interpreting the Vietnam War to future generations of Americans, and they have not hesitated to put their spin on it. The greatest lesson of the Vietnam War," he contends, "remains hidden behind their web."

In a recent issue of The American Legion Magazine, Col. Peck strives to correct the misrepresentations about Vietnam veterans that have been perpetuated by their non-serving peers. "The 50th anniversary of World War II brought a plethora of books, articles, motion pictures, and television programs extolling the virtues of the 'greatest generation,'" he observes. "Likewise, belated recognition was given to those who fought in the 'forgotten' war in Korea. Meanwhile, veterans of the Vietnam 'conflict' languish in the historical dungeon, their story interpreted by some whose agenda demands the denigration of their service and their sacrifice."

Peck points out that young people today "have no inborn bias against the Vietnam War; they know only what they see, hear, and read about it in the popular media." That's the problem. "Their image of the war, gleaned from popular culture, is almost entirely negative," he asserts. "They have seen movies such as Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Born on the Fourth of July, and Platoon. They think they know what it was like. What they are told, though, comes almost totally from those who protested and from those who avoided service."

It's time to set the record straight. "Militarily, tactically, and strategically, we learned a great deal from the war in Vietnam," Col. Peck asserts. "On the social front, however, it appears we have lost the war again and almost without a fight," he laments. "Once it was popular to speak of winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people if we hope to win the war," Peck recalls. "Now it behooves all veterans to win the hearts and minds of the current generations, if we are finally to know the most important lesson of the Vietnam War here at home: When their country needed them, Vietnam War veterans answered the call," he affirms. "The alternative," says Peck, "is to continue to let the likes of Oliver Stone, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stanley Kubrick tell their story -- and tell it wrong. The vast majority of Vietnam War veterans served willingly and faithfully, and they deserve the recognition and gratitude of their country," he asserts. "It is our duty to tell our children and our grandchildren that Vietnam War veterans served with honor."


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