March 19, 2020
It is an unfamiliar date for those who try to “cater” to having an awareness of historical dates of military history in our country. I offer this at no fault of their own. It was the date in 1973 when support and combat troops began withdrawing from Vietnam. It is now recognized by our country as the date ending our nation’s military involvement in Southeast Asia which sacrificed the lives of over 58,000 patriots of our country.
Who served...who answered the call...where did they come from...why did they answer? It’s probably an easy answer to tag most as “BabyBoomers”. I’d relate to them, in a simplistic fashion, as those of us who were told to seek shelter under their desks at a warning of a Russian attack. We were also the ones, while at outdoor recess, looked skyward in awe at the contrails of those thought to be by us bombers from the USSR. We watched on television the Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev’s promise to “bury us” in 1956 while addressing Western ambassadors at a reception in Moscow...soon to be reiterated in similar fashion by him in 1959 while visiting the United States.
So you may ask ... “Who were those that ‘Answered the call’ for the Vietnam “Conflict” and why. They were those who appreciated the fiduciary obligation passed down to them by their prior generation. They were aware of the sacrifices of those who served in WWI, WWII and Korea. They were grandparents, fathers and mothers of us who fought and served to protect my generation from tyranny, oppression and the loss of our liberty of freedom of religion and free speech. We were young but soon learned that we had an obligation to honor a fiduciary obligation handed down to us. For many of us, we honored that. For many, it cost them their life.
The “conflict”, as often memorialized, includes much, I’ll offer, misinformation which I believe discredits those who “answered the call”. It is not true that that most who died in Vietnam were mostly of a minority group. About 5% of the 58,000 KIAS were Hispanic and 12.5% were black. It was the best educated and most egalitarian military force in American military history. Three times as many college graduates served in Vietnam than in WWII. In one year, on average, an infantryman experienced more combat than one in WWII in 4 years.
As written before, it was still, and remains so in my mind, an era that began with a bizarre beginning and a bizarre ending. It started with a landing on the shores of Danang by our elite Marine forces only to meet village chiefs who were anticipating an “uptick” in their black markets and with beautiful women bestowing flowers perhaps anticipating their own “uptick” in business. It ended with a chopper pilot mission to pick up those evacuees on the roof of the embassy in Saigon but had to be guided in by radio due to his little knowledge or familiarity as to where the embassy was. He’d been “in country” only a short time.
How do we leave this? It is strange to me that this day has to be honored/noted/proclaimed by the then sitting President annually. It follows that I owe myself a “Dope Slap” for having forgotten that I was only a participant in one of our country’s “conflict”. It would be many years for any veteran of this “Conflict” toactually be accepted by other veterans or the general public for their service and sacrifice.
I can close by saying that the men and women who sacrificed so much in Southeast Asia during that “conflict” were doing much more than “serving”. They accepted the fiduciary obligation
passed down to them by their forebearers of WWI, WWII and the Korean War. For that, I thank each and all of you for not only your sacrifice but those of your family’s.
Welcome Home and Job Well Done...You’ve earned the respect of your forbearers, your parents, your neighbors, your countrymen, your comrades and all of those who understand our obligations to the words...” Freedom has a taste, and those who have fought for it, the taste is so sweet the protected will never know”. – Patton
I submit this in honor of Sgt Steven Martinez of my platoon, KIA on August 20th 1968, less than one month “In Country” and on behalf of all of our Vietnam Veterans of Hingham’s community.
David T. Sargent