July 28, 2013

How Americans treat veterans

Yesterday there were several commemorative ceremonies for veterans of the Korean War. While watching a report about one of the gatherings, I heard a Korean War vet say that the public mistreated them when they came home to the states. Americans didn't seem to value their service. One fellow said he was spit on. I really didn't know much about the Korean War, so this surprised me.

It started me thinking. Vietnam veterans were also ill-treated when they returned from the war. I remember those days well. Though the American public came to value their service in later decades, at the time, returning veterans were viewed with suspicion -- almost as if they'd done something wrong. And yes, some were spit on.

And yet WWII vets were treated like saints. And today, we honor all veterans of the strange wars waged by the US in the past decade. No matter your walk of life, if you're an American you feel respect for these brave individuals.

It's odd. If the "value" of the war was the primary issue, you'd think we would treat today's veterans poorly. Most Americans see the Iraq war and the continuing Afghan military operations as virtually meaningless. To put it bluntly, the American people don't even know why the United States launched these wars. Yet we rightly go out of our way to honor every veteran who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Add in another factor. All those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan volunteered to fight. You'd think the "value" of the war might thus be placed on their shoulders. After all, in prior wars, people were drafted. Yet the drafted veterans who fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars were reviled upon their return. It was as if they were perceived as being personally responsible for "their" wars. The draftees!

The whole thing just seems odd, don't you think? I'm glad we value our veterans today. (Though of course, I wish the US would stop attacking random nations. But that's another post entirely.)

But the blot on our character remains. It's terrible that those who served in Vietnam and Korea were ill-treated upon their return to the states. The American public committed a sin, en masse, by reacting with hostility toward their returning warriors. I can't imagine how much this hurt those brave veterans. If you don't mind, I'll apologize for all of us:
As an American, I'm sorry for the way you were treated. That was wrong and it never should have happened. You did a great thing for your country. You were brave and you worked hard. For all your efforts, you deserve only praise. Today and forever, you have earned and you deserve the respect of all Americans. Please accept my apology.

1 comment:

Artichoke Annie said...

And I will second that apology. Some people have a hard time wrapping their brain around the concept that you can support the warrior but not the war. I don't find it hard at all.