Editorial: Obama and Trump on the same page? Thank veterans

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 21, 2019

Can you believe that former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump support the same cause?

It’s true.

Next week, on March 29, the country will celebrate National Vietnam War Veterans Day, part of Trump’s Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017.

Obama had declared that March 29, 2012, be Vietnam Veterans Day, marking the start of a 13-year celebration of Vietnam War veterans.

They both believe — as we all should — that Vietnam War veterans deserve more recognition as the heroes they are than what they received when they returned home.

They say we’re in tumultuous times now.

Imagine what it was like in the mid- to late-1960s. The Vietnam War had been dragging on, and a lot of people were tired of it and started to protest. Some even moved to Canada to avoid being drafted; unlike those who said they would move to Canada if Trump won the election, these guys were serious in their convictions not to fight in what they saw as an unnecessary and unjust war.

Those who did what was honorable and served their country’s military when asked, came home to jeers instead of cheers.

I can see both sides of that argument.

But at no time can I see being disrespectful to someone who has honorably served in the military — especially in the time of war — and even more especially in the time of an unpopular war.

The Civil Rights Movement was also in full swing at the time. And we saw all of it on the television news. TVs weren’t in most homes in previous wars, but we all saw part of the horrors in Vietnam, and the horrors happening on our own streets. War, equal rights and integration — all going on at the same time back then — may make us seem like we’ve actually got it made today. Although some would say we’re still struggling with all of those issues, which we are, it isn’t the same — not even close.

An image I’ll never forget is the day the Veteran’s Memorial Monument in downtown Mocksville was dedicated. After the ceremony with famous speakers and music, one man stood out. He was dirty and unshaven, his hair long and matted. His clothes looked no better. He was kneeling at the monument, a tattered American flag in his arms, crying.

He had been to Vietnam, and on his first day there, a bullet went through the head of a soldier he had just met — standing right beside him. He came home to nightmares and scenes he couldn’t get out of his mind. The VA gave him pills, and he took them, rarely leaving home.

Charlie Daniels may have said it best in his song, “Still in Saigon.”

“Thirteen months and 15 days, the last ones were the worst. One minute I kneel down and pray. And the next I stand and curse. No place to run to where I did not feel that war. When I got home. I stayed alone, and checked behind each door. 

“The ground at home was covered with snow, and I was covered with sweat. My younger brother calls me a killer and my daddy calls me a vet. Everyone says I’m someone else, that I’m sick and there’s no cure.”

That Vietnam War veteran at the monument that day finally got the courage to re-join society.

I’m not trying to say that he is typical of all Vietnam War veterans. Most — like those from previous wars — came home and got a job and raised families. You may not have known they had served in Vietnam; after all, it wasn’t a popular thing to brag about at the time.

Guys, now is the time to brag.

Wear your “Vietnam Veteran” hats with pride.

Attend celebrations that honor veterans.

Give us a chance to make up for what we failed to do when you returned home from war.

Mike Barnhardt is the editor of the Davie County Enterprise Record.