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Swift Boat Vets Don’t Love the Troops

I am not happy with all the talk by Republicans (and Democrats) about how much they love the troops. As a Vietnam veteran I did not get a particularly heartwarming welcome home. The main welcome I remember is that Continental Airlines offered me a free drink flying from Fort Lewis, Washington, where I separated from the Army, to New Orleans, on my way to Mobile.

The most anti-veteran thing I remember was Swift Boat veterans ads that the Republicans ran against John Kerry when he ran for President. Although it was directed at a fellow Swift Boat veteran, Kerry, it was really an attack on all veterans, particularly against Vietnam vets. It ironic that except for pilots and Seal teams, Swift Boat vets have been the only Navy vets who have actually fought the enemy since World War II. I think most Navy personnel killed or injured in Iraq or Afghanistan are medics assigned to Marine units.

In retrospect, I think the attitude of the general public toward Vietnam veterans coming home was that the Vietnamese should have killed the returning vets. They thought that would have been more just, because Vietnam vets were perverted baby killers. Those who didn’t go — Clinton, Bush, Cheney — felt they had to condemn Vietnam vets, because otherwise the draft dodgers would have looked bad. They weren’t necessarily cowards, but they were selfish, not willing to serve their country.

As a result, Vietnam vets have something in common with low ranking German Nazi vets, who fought in WW II because they had to, and they fought for the guy in the foxhole next to them, like the troops in Afghanistan, not for any Nazi ideals. But they will forever be branded as low grade war criminals. That’s more or less how those who didn’t fight see Vietnam vets. It was particularly hard on minorities and less educated vets, who were drafted or volunteered in disproportionately large numbers because the more advantaged youths refused to go.

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