The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

December 1, 2012

Vietnam experience taught us how not to treat our troops

ENID, Okla. — It resembled a scene from the 1953 Marlon Brando film, “The Wild One,” in which a motorcycle gang invades a small California town.

There were motorcycles everywhere Friday afternoon on the streets of downtown Enid.

But unlike the film’s gang, these bikers were not intent on mischief or mayhem, and were not young hoodlums.

Instead, these riders were bent on showing respect to the object they were accompanying, the 80 percent replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall that will take up permanent residence at Enid Woodring Regional Airport sometime next year.

These were not hoodlums, but law-abiding citizens, many of them military veterans.

And they were decidedly not young. Gray hair and age-worn skin were predominate.

“I can’t tell you how many old, gray-headed guys I’ve seen,” joked Don Allen, chief executive officer of the Vietnam Veterans Traveling Tribute organization, the group that sold the wall to the Woodring Wall of Honor committee.

Wherever the wall has gone, it seems, cycle-riding veterans have been there to escort it.

The replica wall, and the original it represents, means a great deal to these men.

They went to Vietnam and returned, while the wall contains the names of 58,272 of their colleagues who did not make it home.

Not that the troops who did return from Vietnam were treated very well.

Bob Farrell, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant and a Vietnam-era vet, told of being warned not to wear his uniform in public because “being a member of the United States military was not in best keeping of traditions of the U.S. government at that time,” he said.

In 1979, working as a Congressional military escort, Farrell made a trip to Hanoi, the former capital of North Vietnam.

He and his three fellow military escorts broke away from their shadows and made an impromptu visit to the site of the “Hanoi Hilton,” the notorious North Vietnamese prison where many American POWs were held in appalling conditions.

“In August, in 105-degree weather, 110-degree weather, I can tell you that chill went up our spine,” Farrell said.

During his time at the Pentagon, Farrell was spat upon and had blood thrown on him by protesters.

“Those times have changed, thank God,” he said.

And they have changed, he said, in large measure because of the experiences of those who served in Vietnam.

“Military men and women today have military veterans of the Vietnam era to thank for that,” he said.

Military members in uniform today are celebrated, not scorned.

Strangers walk up to them and thank them for their service.

In an airport during a recent trip, I witnessed a civilian buy breakfast for a pair of airmen in uniform.

The man was reluctant to accept thanks from the somewhat flustered young people, preferring instead to thank them for serving their country.

“Maybe we have learned as a nation the lessons of Vietnam not to treat our people like crap when they come home,” he said.

But don’t feel sorry for Vietnam veterans, says Allen, a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

“We’re not victims, Vietnam veterans are not victims,” he said. “We’re proud, honest, God-fearing people. That’s all we want to be treated as.”

There were no parades for returning Vietnam veterans, no welcome ceremonies.

“It doesn’t matter about parades, it’s a mindset,” he added.

He doesn’t question the mindset, just its sincerity.

“Nowadays, there’s a lot going on for all the troops returning,” Allen said, “and those are great things. Hopefully we had a little bit to do with that. But going into the future it is really important that we understand that. Only the dead have seen the end of war.

“I’m tired of all the bumper stickers, guys, I’m tired of all the other stuff. Don’t tell me you support the troops. What the hell are you doing? What’s that mean?”

By bringing the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall permanently here, Enid has done something to support the memories of those who fought and died in Vietnam.

“This is a physical manifestation of actually, as the artillery guys say, putting steel on the target,” Allen said, “supporting our troops and standing tall.”

Enid and Oklahoma are known for their patriotism and their support of service members and veterans. But thus is not the case everywhere, it seems.

Scott Hakim, a Marine infantryman in both Iraq and Afghanistan, told NBC News about a female classmate at Rutgers University saying, “Why should we pay these guys to go to college?”

She was referring to the nearly one million veterans enrolled at U.S. schools under the post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

“Everybody who goes into the military is stupid,” she continued, “that’s why they joined the military instead of going to college.”

Hakim, who was wounded by an IED in Afghanistan and suffered a traumatic brain injury, took the girl’s remarks personally.

He vowed to out-study everybody in the class prior to the mid-term exam.

He received the highest grade in the class, 98 out of 100, while his unhappy classmate flunked.

This young lady should consider that if it wasn’t for people like Hakim and all those who have served in all our nation’s wars, she might not have the freedom to attend college.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Never leave a child or a pet alone in a car

    With temperatures soaring to near or above 100, parents need to know they can’t leave their children alone in a locked vehicle. In 10 minutes, a vehicle’s temperature can climb 19 degrees. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s, and it only takes a few minutes before a child can become dangerously overheated, according to Safe Kids USA.

    July 23, 2014

  • Will Rogers web.jpg Will Rogers Daily Telegrams 7-24-2014

    I am beginning to believe that Mellon is the poorest Treasurer we ever had. I would like to be Treasurer. Here would be my policy, and you see if it wouldn’t be the best thing for America:
    Save nothing, have nothing in there. Then Congress and the entire nation could have nothing in view only what they made themselves.
    A Candidate.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg State of the state: Things are not as good as they could be

    Draper wants to split Cali up into six separate states — Silicon Valley, around the San Francisco Bay Area; Central California, including cities like Bakersfield; West California, including Los Angeles and its suburbs; South California, including San Diego; North California, centered on Sacramento and Jefferson, in the far northern part of the state.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Voters have decisions to make in August races

    Democrats will have two runoffs to decide. One will be choosing their party’s nominee for state superintendent. Freda Deskin will face John Cox. The winner will face Republican nominee Joy Hofmeister in the November general election.
    The other race is for the party nominee to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn. Jim Rogers will face Connie Johnson. The winner will face Republican nominee U.S. Rep. James Lankford in November.

    July 22, 2014

  • Going postal

    Waukomis residents have the opportunity to have their voices heard in regard to the future of their post office.

    July 22, 2014 1 Story

  • New dorm

    Breaking ground on a new dormitory at Northern Oklahoma College Enid is another step in the evolution of the campus.

    July 20, 2014 1 Story

  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg Stars in our eyes

    We caught the vision when, in May of 1961, John F. Kennedy told Congress, and the world, that the space race was no longer to be so one-sided.
    “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” he said.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • thumbs up logo.jpg Thumbs up for northwest Okla. communities, where net taxable sales figures are up

    Net taxable sales were up $1,917,774 in Enid, when compared to sales reported in July 2013. The increase amounted to a 2.6 percent increase in sales tax revenue for the city.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patsy Sorrels.tiff The key to God’s storehouse is in the giving

    Point being, there are a lot of hungry people out there who need to be fed the Bread of Life, and He needs to be served with a smile and a discerning heart.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • David Christy col. use clip.jpg Water, water everywhere?

    As Americans, we have taken water for granted far, far too long. We assume it will always be there, when we turn on the tap.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
House Ads