'Cross the Pond: Vietnam Vets Uncensored by Wess Harris
Vietnam. Yesterday or ancient history? Americans of military age during this last war fought largely by draftees will never forget the impact it had -and still has- on their lives. Citizens born after the end of military conscription need give little thought to the realities of war beyond attending an occasional parade, standing proudly as jets fly over before athletic events, and voting for politicians who promise to "support the troops".
This state of affairs is not acceptable in a nation even nominally committed to lofty principles of freedom and democracy. Only the most naive and idealistic would argue that we should do away with our armed forces. It is equally naive and idealistic to expect those in power, those who vote or hold political office, to understand the nature of war if they have never served in the military or faced the reality of being compelled to do so. Praises aplenty can be heaped upon our now all volunteer military, but it is an undeniable reality that an all volunteer force has lifted the burden of knowledge and experience of the rigors of war from our citizenry. Those who send our forces into battle to shed the blood of war have increasingly little understanding of what they do. Literally, they have no skin in the game.
Veterans who served in the Vietnam era military were drawn from a broad cross section of our citizenry. Many were conscripted and no few of those who enlisted did so in the hope of avoiding ground combat. Others volunteered out of genuine patriotic zeal. Vietnam vets hoped to come home and resume their lives. Sadly, tens of thousands did not return home alive and those who did were forever changed. A signature characteristic of those who returned has been silence. Nearly four decades after the end of the war, surviving Vietnam veterans remain silent to all but their closest confidantes -mainly fellow vets. This understandable silence has come at a terrible price. Citizens of the nation with the world's most powerful military no longer understand the nature of war. We can now enter into armed conflict with little real understanding among the citizenry of what is being done in our name and with our consent both to those of distant lands and to our neighbors.
This small volume, first compiled in 1977, offers a rare glimpse into the personal nature of armed conflict. Contributors to this work held and likely still hold wildly divergent political views. No matter. What we offer here is a candid look at war as seen by the participants. No grand ideologies or geopolitical analysis -plenty of such to be found elsewhere. Readers are not promised a "good read". Many over the years have been unable to finish this work -Too intense! It's rough! Indeed. It is supposed to be. Deal with it. Maybe it will save a few lives down the road.
Dexter, Michigan: Thomson-Shore, 2014 - 142p, images