Wednesday, November 12, 2014
In 1940 Franklin Delano Roosevelt had instituted the Selective Training & Service Act that required all young men to register with Selective Service once they turned 18. It was the first peacetime draft since WWII and was used to fill vacancies that weren't filled through voluntary means. In the anti-war environment of the Viet Nam era, the draft became a major focus of all those who opposed the war and everything connected with it. It was abolished in Jan 1973, and the military has since become an all-volunteer organization.
It was a difficult time to be in the military, and there were many stories about soldiers being attacked on the street, spit upon in airports, and generally disrespected for serving their country and being involved with an unpopular war. ROTC buildings on college campuses were blown up as well as businesses construed as being "sympathetic" to the federal government.
This was also the first war in which the news media was present in force on the front lines, videoing the battles and how the military conducted maneuvers. Cameras became part of the equipment seen both in camps and the battlefields, and their influence was profound on American thinking about the war. Never before had it been possible for the average person to see such carnage right in their living room on a TV screen on virtually the same day it happened.
I worked as a neuropsyciatric technician at Oak Knoll Hospital in Oakland, CA. I spent many hours talking with the young men who came back from Nam suffering from a lot of psychological trauma, and I can only hope that most were able to put their lives back together.
My husband served aboard the USS Higbee DD 806 as an electronics technician, and he was there when the ship was attacked by Russian MIG-17 fighter planes in April 1972, the first ship to be attacked in an air strike since WWII. I know that God had a hand in protecting that ship from being sunk, and in spite of the tremendous damage done to it, there were no fatalities. Fire, oil, and munitions make for a dangerous mix on a ship, but the fire was contained, and the ship eventually made its way to Subic Bay in the Philippines. If you want to know more about this conflict, check out the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Higbee_(DD-806).
We wives heard about the bombing on the 11 p.m. news which only consisted of a few sentences. This happened as the same time as the Apollo 16 moon landing, and that was the focus at that time. It was a full two weeks before any of wives received any contact from our guys. News had been very sketchy, but we figured that the longer no one heard anything officially, the better the odds were that no one had lost a husband. It was a difficult as well as terrifying experience.
The good news is that the times have changed with regards to our men and women in uniform. No longer does society revile them, but rather they are honored and even thanked for their service. I've often wondered if our Viet Nam vets had come home into a positive environment if there would have been fewer who became homeless and without hope. Instead, too many fought a solitary battle against the demons they had no defenses against both in their bodies and their heads. Far too many of them are still fighting for their disability benefits due to their exposure to Agent Orange, and far too many have lost.
Much needs to be done to provide the services needed for our wounded veterans, and thankfully, this is the right time. Our men and women have sacrificed much for our freedoms, one of which allows me to be able to write this blog. I am grateful for the improved environment that supports and encourages businesses to actively honor veterans with free meals and special discounts in services on Veteran's Day. No longer do I keep quiet about my milatry service. May the times keep changing.