"Above all Vietnam was a war that asked everything of a few and nothing of most in America."
The author Myra Macpherson said that about those who fought the Vietnam War. American soldiers who suffered the entire burden of the war won every significant battle and left in 1973 with honor. Later, politicians, Democrat and Republican, who did none of the fighting lost what our soldiers had gallantly fought for and died.
President Kennedy had justly sent us to help fight for the freedom of South Vietnam but the cost proved to be extremely high. In the long struggle 58,267 fell in battle and many more were wounded. Most of the fallen were under 22 years and in the prime of life.
One of the recurring scenes I have observed at the black Vietnam Wall is where a young girl is tracing the name of her grandfather, known only from a faded photo. There are reasons the Vietnam Wall is black.
First it is black because congressional Democrats drastically reduced and then terminated funding for the war after our troops left in 1973, betraying the Republic of Vietnam and ignoring the ultimate sacrifices of our solders. The actions of our Congress made it impossible for the South Vietnamese to adequately supply their troops and maintain morale.
Second it is black because a Republican president failed to discharge his duty. Richard Nixon had earlier made a secret agreement with President Thieu of the Republic of Vietnam that the United States would bomb North Vietnam back to the so called "Stone Age" if they violated the terms of the Paris Peace agreement. Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford, betrayed that promise and refused to unleash the B-52s.
Recall the situation in April 1975 where our Vietnamese friends were frantically climbing a ladder to the top of the US Embassy trying to reach one of the last leaving American choppers. That infamous ladder, a symbol of shame, is now in the Ford Presidential Library; Americans should detest what that ladder represents!
This month, we are leaving Iraq after another long struggle that cost American blood and treasure. It is imperative that our politicians not follow the same tragic path as Vietnam! Let us not repeat history by foolishly leaving Iraq to our sworn enemy, Iran.
Remember what Lincoln said at Gettysburg: "That these dead shall not have died in vain."