When I was entering my teen years in the late sixties, there was a great fascination on my part with hippies and the whole anti-establishment idea. I think this is probably pretty normal for kids that age, and I wasn’t much different than most of the kids I went to school with.
And, even though I grew up playing army and watching war movies on television, I fell in lockstep with the anti-war, anti-Viet Nam feelings that were growing stronger and more pervasive each year. I hungrily watched the six o’clock news each day to see the body counts. I devoured the Life Magazines that my grandmother subscribed to each week, pouring over the pictures of Kent State and the protests.
We were unique. We were the first! No one had ever challenged authority. No one had ever had the guts to be against a war. No one had ever dreamed of a world where everyone loved each other and everything was groovy. We were the pioneers that would save the world from ourselves. And we’d do it with love, flowers and music. The drugs were just the icing on the cake.
I know how appealing the whole notion can be. And how easily a young person can be taken in by the great feeling you get of being part of something special and earth shattering. No amount of logic or facts would have dissuaded me from my anti-war stance. I got sent home from school for wearing an American flag with a peace sign on my shirt. I was making a difference! I was trendy, I was cool. My friends and I all thought so.
And, by 1972, people like me had made a difference. You could see that we were winning against stupid, old fashioned, tyrants like Johnson and Nixon. You could see that our country was changing.
You could see that we as a nation had lost our resolve to win a stupid war, forced upon us by stupid people, and un-winnable because the “enemy” had the moral high ground and right always prevails, eventually. Domino effect? Yeah, right.
And right did prevail. We left Viet Nam about a year after I became eligible for the draft. The world was going to become a better place.
It wasn’t until nearly thirty years later that we found out just how close to winning that war militarily we were. It was years later before the government of Viet Nam released documents that showed just how much affect our war protests had. Just how critical it was that we lost our resolve when we did. How dangerously close they came to losing that war. That quagmire.
It was thirty years later before we began to understand how our loss of resolve, our abandonment of our friends and allies, our cutting and running affected the way we as a country are perceived in the real world. How those who hate us and hate our way of life use that information to bolster their attacks on us. On the freedoms we represent.
Meantime, history proved that our government was initially correct. There was a domino effect. Much of Southeast Asia toppled to communist and repressive regimes. Literally millions of human beings, people, and families died and many millions more suffered through the re-education and abuses of prison. Billions of people’s lives changed. For the worse.
We bear a responsibility for that.
I am sorry that I was part of that. I deeply regret my stance against that war. I deeply regret believing that I knew more about a war, a people, a culture on the other side of the world than the men and women who had studied it and brought us to bear on the situation. I am so sorry for the suffering that I caused to the men and women and their families who were honorably serving our country, through my misguided thoughts and actions. They were fighting for my right to think they were wrong.
I wish that I could take it all back.