According to one Vietnam Vet I happpen to know well, Mr. BNI, who was in combat for 18 months with the U.S. Marine Corps in the late ’60’s, hearing that phrase now can never make up for the fact that returning servicemen and women never heard it back then.
When Mr. BNI, still in uniform, got off the plane returning him to the states from Vietnam, he was welcomed back by crowds of long-haired, dirty-looking hippies (as they were called at the time) waiting at the airport, chanting things like “baby killer” and “murderer,” while making gestures that included the middle finger and being spat on. Yes, it’s true, this really happened. One returning Marine was even trampled and killed by a mob of anti-war protesters in San Francisco.
There is also the problem of the over-used expression – ‘Thank you for your service’ – which nobody said back then, but everyone says now. After something has been repeated so many times, by so many people, it starts losing its meaning and becomes something that you say automatically, whether you mean it or not (especially by those on the Left).
The Homecoming for Vietnam Veterans explains this better than I can:
We were bombarded with hate! People stood on the side of the road holding signs condemning the war and us returning veterans. They chanted slogans as a group and yelled insults to us as we passed. Once the bus began pulling away, tomatoes and eggs fell from the sky, splattering against the windows. All of us on the bus sat quietly, shocked, jaws agape, unable to believe what had just happened.
We were treated like outcasts, blamed for a war we didn’t start, accused of killing innocent women and children, called dope heads, spit at and ridiculed by citizens, American citizens.
The news media had continued to flame the public opposition to the Vietnam War by broadcasting distorted and biased accounts from the battlefield. Reporting that the use of drugs in Vietnam was escalating, increased incidents of soldiers refusing direct orders to go out on patrols, and the military inflating body counts and misleading the public on the war – so the warriors were blamed for losing the war!
Clearly, it was unpopular for someone to be a Vietnam Veteran or even a member of the military. In the 1970’s, Vietnam Veterans were discriminated against for jobs, publishing books of their war experiences and were referred to as the social delinquents in our society – even the VFW refused to allow us membership. It seems like every movie about Vietnam to that point portrayed the veteran as a killing machine with mental problems, bad marriages, hooked on drugs or alcoholics.
They were considered an unstable and dangerous lot – a group that citizens should be wary of and avoid. Vets clammed up, refrained from wearing military uniforms in public, grew beards and long hair to fit it with his peers, keeping primarily to themselves. The truth was that our country just wanted to forget about Vietnam and didn’t want any reminders circulating.
How many of you are aware that in 1998, sociologist Jerry Lembeke published a book: The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the legacy of Vietnam, which completely discredits the claims that American Soldiers were spit on when they returned home and that it was a common urban myth, constructed to ruin anti war protesters.
Shortly after the book came out, a Chicago columnist, Bob Greene, came up with an idea for a newspaper column that eventually resulted in a published book. In a column that is syndicated in 200 newspapers nationwide, he asked the following question: “If you are a reader of this column, and you are a Vietnam Veteran, were you ever spat upon when you returned to the U.S.?” The response was overwhelming and more than 1000 soldiers wrote in. The many letters confirmed the rumors and make a poignant, genuine statement on their own.
Greene writes, “I did indeed include the invitation for anyone who had spat upon a returning soldier to write in and explain his or her motives, and to reflect on how he or she feels about it now.“
“There were no responses.”
Today, the American psyche is ingrained with greater respect for the military, in large part, because people recognize that past treatment of Vietnam vets was a mistake.
But to some Vietnam Vets like Mr. BNI, utter disdain for the military is still the sentiment of most people on the Left. The only difference now is, they hide it better, by saying things like “Thank you for your service.” As a tribute to him, and all his fellow Vietnam Veterans, I dedicate this video:
h/t Jim Diehl “Gathering Of Eagles”