Clear the air on myth of the debased Vietnam vet

June 3, 2010

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I USUALLY enjoy Sam Allis’s column, even when I don’t agree with him, but I have to take issue with his statement: “I sure don’t remember seeing [‘Support Our Troops, End the War’ bumper stickers] during Vietnam’’ (“Never forget,’’ g, May 31).

In high school, I sported a button that said “Support Our Boys in Vietnam: Bring Them Home.’’ One of Pete Seeger’s best-known songs at the time was “(If You Love Your Uncle Sam) Bring Them Home.’’

On “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,’’ the hosts often stated, in the context of a joke, that the best way to protect American soldiers was to keep them out of Vietnam.

While attitudes toward the military are certainly more universally positive today than they were in the 1960s, the myth that returning troops were reviled and spat upon was just that: a myth, promoted largely by the Rambo movies. (See “The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam’’ by Holy Cross sociology professor and Vietnam vet Jerry Lembcke.)

Even among us rabid antiwar protesters, the worst feelings that we harbored toward Vietnam vets was that we felt sorry for them. They had trusted their government enough to allow themselves to be put in harm’s way as that government pursued a geopolitical strategy that was both fraudulent and futile.

Paul Lehrman

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