It is good that we have finally come to recognize and salute the heroes of World War II. It is good that we have commemorated the sacrifices made by the military men and women in Vietnam, and to build a monument and traveling monument to them. We have not done as much for the men and women who stood in for all of us in the Korean War. We certainly owe all these brave men and women a tremendous debt of gratitude. We should do everything possible to acknowledge and express appreciation to the men and women who represented the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However there is a large number of men who have become the unrecognized, unreported, undocumented, and erased from our history. I am refering to the conscientious objectors who number in the many thousands from all of our wars, past and present. True, some did not report for their own fear or their own personal reasons. We have split hairs about all this and divided our nation over them. But in recent years, we have simply swept them under the rug.
Especially during the Vietnam War, there were those who did not report for military duty because they felt that war was wrong. To a great degree, they were right. We had no business to "invade" a nation that we promised open and free elections. As the elections were getting put in place, it became clear that Ho Chi Minh, a communist leader, would easily win an election in the combined north and south. We sent in huge numbers of military men and women, tremendous amounts of military equipment, and supported some very terrible South Vietnam leaders. In the end over 50,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam. Those who saw that war as un-American, un-democratic, and loaded with lies from our own politicians and military leaders, acted in a way they thought right. President Kennedy, and to a greater extent, President Johnson poured all this manpower and these supplies into a hopeless cause. Nixon and Kissinger only added to this build-up and they lied more than anyone about the Vietnam War ...and "peace."
What do we do with the men who failed to report during the Vietnam War? Some went to Canada, some went to Sweden, some went to prison, some went elsewhere or lost themselves anonymously in the U.S. Their lives were forever changed. We should come to grips with this sad chapter in our history. Of course there are those who simply dismiss them as traitors. Of course there are always Americans who are heroes at home, or think all problems are to be solved militarily, or have some pseudo-heroic response to everything. But in the objective, clearer perspective, when is it time to simply ask the U.S. the question: what do we do with this history and these men? In some ways, they were right, our nation's leaders were wrong. We have had enough of that in the past 8 years. Let's be honest, and let's take a fresh look from the perspective of time.
What do we do with an honest, objective history of those who refused to serve in the military during the Vietnam War?