While this happened over 46 years ago, as a Vietnam veteran, I think it is important that our citizens not familiar with that war hear some of the facts versus half-truths that continue to surface.
At the conclusion of the Vietnam War in the mid 1970’s, our military personnel were not looked upon with the same enthusiasm and support as our current warriors fighting the International War on Terror.
In fact, if you are old enough to remember, returning troops from that war were jeered rather than cheered, spit upon, labeled as “baby killers,” and the thought of a welcome home parade was an alien thought.
However later, as success from the wars in the Middle East spread throughout America, the military image started changing and people wanted to clearly associate themselves with the “heroes of our country.”
Suddenly, lots of people wanted to be part of the successful image portrayed by our soldiers. And, as a result, lots of phonies appeared on the scene.
Let me give you some of the examples of myths that are not true and stories you may have heard specifically about our “war” in Vietnam.
There were 9,087,000 military personnel serving on active duty during the official Vietnam era from Aug. 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975. During this period, 2,709,918 Americans served in Vietnam.
However, when the results of the 2000 census was released, 13,853,027 Americans claimed to have served in Vietnam; about 4 out of every 5 who claim to be Vietnam veterans are not.
One common myth is that most men and women who served in Vietnam were drafted. In reality, two-thirds of the men and women who served there were volunteers. As a comparison, two-thirds of the men and women who served in WWII were drafted…kinda of a new way at looking at it, isn’t it?
Another common myth is that a disproportionate number of black soldiers were killed in Vietnam. Actually, 86% of those killed were Caucasians, 12.5% were black, and 1.2% were other races.
One of the most common myths is that the war was fought mostly by the poor and uneducated. Again, untrue as the soldiers who fought in Vietnam were the best educated force our nation ever sent into combat.
Seventy-nine percent had a high school education or better. Men and women who went to Vietnam from more well-to-do areas had a slightly higher risk of dying because they were more likely to be pilots or Infantry officers.
Another common myth is that the average age of a trooper in combat was 19. The average age of the 58,148 personnel killed in Vietnam was 23.11 years.
Some antiwar writers also wrote that the fighting in Vietnam was not as intense as in WWII. But in fact, the average infantryman in the South Pacific during WWII saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year thanks to the mobility of the helicopter.
So, what does this all mean? It means, don’t always believe what you read in the newspaper, see on TV, or what someone tells you. Believe in those men and women today who are in our Armed Forces and helping protect our way of life right now. They represent the truth!
Jerry Hogan is a former Rockwall County Judge and retired Army officer who served in Vietnam. He can be reached at 214-394-4033