Letter: What we really owe Vietnam vets is a confession, apology

Last modified: Thursday, April 11, 2013
In recent days the Concord Monitor has reminded us of Congress’s decision to honor Vietnam War veterans with a “Welcome Home” day prompted by the mistreatment of veterans returning from that war. In supporting that decision, the Monitor says that “all of us need to give thanks to those who fought it (“To Vietnam vets, welcome home, finally,” editorial, March 29). The men and women coming home from Vietnam were regrettably mistreated. For me, how we respond to that mistreatment is more complicated than a welcome and thank you.

Some 58,000 of our people were killed in Vietnam. Many more have committed suicide than were killed. Obviously thousands are still suffering from physical, emotional and spiritual wounds. The purpose of war is to kill, and those we sent were successful in that mission. Reuters reports that 3.8 million Vietnamese were killed. The heartbreaker is that we sent our people to war based on untruth, misinformation and false premises. Bluntly put, we sent them to kill and be killed based on lies.

In allowing our leaders to send sons and daughters into this hell based on falsehood and untruth, we betrayed those we sent. A welcome and thank you is not an appropriate response to betrayal. It’s another betrayal. It tells our veterans (and the rest of us) that it was appropriate and right to deceive them while at the same time committing war crimes against another nation. What we really owe these veterans is a confession and apology for how wrongly we have treated them.