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To: Vietnam Veterans Memorial

I am 76 years old and remember the war well. None of my relatives fought in the war, but I knew how horrible it was in many ways.  I support full disclosure by the government and help for all of our veterans. Thank you for all you do for our country.

With deep appreciation for your courage,

Mary


A VETERAN’S APOLOGY TO THE PEOPLE OF VIETNAM

There will never be a day when the Vietnam War is not on my mind. It was one of the worst mistakes America has ever made. Vietnam was fought for big money interests and promoted under the guise of nationalism. The war should have taught us a humbling lesson, but we let it slip away. Peace has become the enemy of corporate-run America. Our nation is accustomed to viewing life through the crosshairs of a rifle scope. We are a society in search of constant battle.

Over the past 50 years Americans have been spoon-fed whatever revisionist propaganda about Vietnam our leaders want us to hear. Their lies have kept us from understanding the truth: the war in Southeast Asia was immoral and unjust, a brutality akin to slavery and the genocide of the American Indian. Vietnam produced a realization in me that, much like the British redcoats who once tried to destroy our freedom, I had fought on the wrong side.

I am a veteran who would like to apologize to the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for my part in the war. I joined the U.S. Navy in 1966 to battle a nation that had been in a prolonged struggle to free itself from foreign domination. The Vietnamese defeated the Japanese occupation during the Second World War. In 1945 they declared themselves independent from France. They wanted only what America’s Founding Fathers wanted: liberty and independence.

In 1965 the U.S. sent an army to Vietnam to battle a new revolutionary nationalist movement called the National Liberation Front (the Viet Cong). Our soldiers were told that all struggles for national liberation were ex-USSR or China led “Communist conspiracies.” That was a lie. The Vietnam War was a pointless exercise in destruction. Americans were ordered to burn Vietnamese villages, destroy large areas of the countryside, and kill as many enemy fighters as possible. Our military dropped napalm and cluster bombs and sprayed people with herbicides. The results were death and injury, lifelong illness and genetic mutation.

The suffering did not end with the liberation of Saigon in 1975.

Author Edward Tick, known for his groundbreaking work with Vietnam veterans, wrote a book called “Fallen Leaves, Broken Lives.” He collected statistics by searching history books, newspapers, and archives, and interviewing survivors and scholars throughout the United States and Southeast Asia. Here is what he discovered:

During the course of the war 2.5 million Vietnamese were killed, 4 million were wounded and 250,000 went missing in action. There have been 67,000 people maimed and 50,000 post-war deaths because of unexploded bombs and mines in Vietnam. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicide numbers are unknown, but there are an estimated 3 million disabled street people in Vietnam.

The environmental damage was enormous, ranging from devastated forests to petrol-poisoned rice fields. The U.S. bombing in Vietnam (approximately 8 billion pounds worth) was 4 times more than during World War II. Over 5,778 Vietnamese villages, 15,100 bridges, 2,923 high schools and universities, 1,500 maternity hospitals and 484 churches were destroyed or damaged. Agent Orange-related deformities still occur at the rate of 35,000 a year (11.7 million gallons of the deadly chemical were sprayed over the countryside).

I wish the Vietnam War could have ended with some form of introspection and reconciliation on our part, but America’s leaders were (and still are) out to lunch. We have become an enormous military camp intent on creating new enemies and wreaking havoc around the world. The U.S. has reached the point where warfare no longer requires victory. Our failures are self-inflicted. The Military Industrial Complex (MIC) is a parasite on this country, and our politicians treat young soldiers like consumable assets.

There is some good news: Americans are steadily growing immune to our government’s attempts to propagandize faux patriotism into a good and necessary thing. We are learning that war is rarely about a “moral higher ground.” U.S. citizens are finally beginning to understand that our addiction to battle is a symptom of the sickness that pervades us.

Time does not heal all wounds, but owning the truth is a small step forward.

As a nation we are seriously flawed. Our military is deep in the blood of millions of innocents. My participation in the Vietnam War was a terrible mistake. I hope the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia will forgive me. As for the untruthful leaders of this country, no apology will be forthcoming.  Their eyes are already locked on the next atrocity ahead.

Tim Martin

(Edward Tick – Vietnam statistics (reprinted from Unte Magazine –Jan/Feb 2005 issue)http://wjpbr.com/casual.html )

 


Willam G Leftwich, Jr.
Date of casualty: November 18, 1970
Wall Panel/Line 6W/68

Dear Bill,

An Act of Congress commissioned you as an officer and a gentleman four years before it did the same to me.  But it didn’t take an Act of Congress to make you a gentleman.  Of all those with whom I served during my eight and a half years on active duty as one of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, you were probably the one most qualified to be called a gentleman, a gentle man.  I think most of our colleagues in Second Battalion, Second Marines would agree.  Amazingly strong physically and emotionally, yet gentle in spite of it all.  The demonic drive for power that underlay the American war in Vietnam is in some ways epitomized by the fact that it could use such a gentle man to be an instrument of violence, death, and injustice.  You earned your Navy Cross and your first of three Purple Hearts at the Battle of Hoai An as an “advisor” to the Vietnamese Marine Brigade in the spring of 1965 before the American buildup of ground forces had even begun.  Five years later, as Commanding Officer of the First Reconnaissance Battalion, you consistently acted as senior extraction commander any time one of your recon teams called for an emergency extraction.  It was after the successful completion of one such extraction that your fog-bound helicopter ran into the mountain.  I suppose I should congratulate you for having a destroyer named after you, and I imagine that Jane and the kids were proud to be at the Christening, but I’ll have to admit I find it dishonors the memory of such a gentle man — another obscenity of war, of little significance in the greater scheme of things but something I think about every time I look at this wall.

Semper Fi,
Ken
Kenneth E. Mayers
Major USMCR

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