My Side of the Fencepost

By Jim Dickerson

A Patriotic Tribute

At the Boone County Courthouse grounds on Monday, Memorial Day was observed as it should be. A large and sincere crowd remembered and paid their respects to both deceased and living veterans. It was a fitting tribute to all who have served in and supported the nation and its military in times of need.

No less important is the support needed — now — for our military personnel.

As J. Paul McIntosh spoke on Memorial Day about a young soldier who served with honor and died in Vietnam nearly 40 years ago, my memories filtered back to the 1960s and 1970s. Times were different then. Many in our country had turned so far against the Vietnam War that they were placing blame on those who had served and simply carried out orders there. Returning veterans were not well treated. In fact, many were treated very badly.

Looking back at the Vietnam era, it seems to me that the biggest injustice of the time was America’s treatment of its returning veterans. It was a case of misplaced blame. Vietnam was a political war. The pressures for ending the war should have been aimed at the national leadership of the time, and not at those who served.

Many injustices occur in times of war. Mistakes are made. Sometimes there are innocent victims and even atrocities that defy explanation. Justice must be served at those times.

That does not mean that the entire military and those who served should be blamed. The vast majority have served with honor and deserve the respect of a grateful nation.

At present, the United States is involved in another controversial war in Iraq. Strong opinions are voiced every day about whether or not we are accomplishing our goals, whether we should pull our troops out or remain in that war.

If we have learned anything from the Vietnam era, it should be to keep our political discussion of war separated from our treatment of veterans — and to respect those who have served regardless of our feelings about the war itself.