For once, I actually agree with Severo and Milford. The homecoming of the Vietnam veteran was not all that terrible compared to the usual welcoming trend of returning soldiers. Compared to basically all the previous wars, except World War II, the return of Vietnam veterans was par for the course. However, the fact that their homecoming was similar to many veterans before it, does not excuse the behavior. Rather, it highlights the terrible pattern of the mistreated and under-appreciated veterans. What made the Vietnam’s veteran seem so distinct was the expectation of a homecoming similar to that of WWII soldiers. Who could blame them though? Ron Kovic wrote about the heoric memories he had of the returning WWII soldiers. The warm welcoming received by WWII veterans seemed a typical experience to Vietnam veterans because it is what they knew and therefore expected.
This time around I read Frances M. Liberty. I thought it was interesting how she could recall so many memories about war with humour. I don’t think she necessarily thought these recollections were funny, rather it is an easier emotion to deal with. Personally, when ever I’m unsure about how to deal with something, the first reaction I have is to laugh. Another reason I think Frances reverted to humour was because of all the years she’s had to think about her experiences. For example, the clip we watched in class when she was tackled by an officer; she was cracking up as she was telling the story. At the time I’m sure she was scared, but looking back and knowing the end result, the circumstance seemed funny. Frances also may have been laughing about her stories to show that she is okay now. Laughing conveys that she is okay with her story and so you too can enjoy it without being concerned about how it affected her.
The first woman I read about was Regina H. Schiffman. She was a Vietnam and Korea veteran. I decided to choose her because she worked in a MASH unit. I have always heard about the old TV show MASH (never watched it though), and I was always bothered that I did not know what the letters stood for. Now I can rest easily knowing MASH means Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Now to get back on topic. It was interesting to see how great her expectations were when she entered into the service. It seems she was influenced by the excitement of the “greatest generation” when she joined the service in 1949. It was funny to see how she reacted and commented about the outfits she wore or the clothes they were issued. The male veterans who we’ve read never talked about their clothes, except to say that they didn’t have enough and were freezing. Schiffman also talked a lot about the living conditions they were forced to live in. I can’t believe she really had to bathe using her helmet. It’s interesting how they could still set up the sterile field and maintain it when they lived in such unsanitary conditions.
The second woman I learned about was Violet Hill Gordon. She is a World War II veteran and served in WAAC. Gordon’s success was an unlikely one considering she was a double minority being a woman and black. I knew a lot of young men decided to enlist only to go along with their friends; according to Gordon’s account, the same trend was visible for women. I also thought it was interesting how the lesbian issue was resolved. It’s kind of funny that it was resolved better back in the forties than it would have been handled today.
The Korean War was the first war in American history, besides the Confederacy in the Civil War where America was not the clear victor. This caused a lot of resentment on the home-front. When the veterans returned, they were not treated kindly. In fact, the POW’s were accused of being communists. I could not imagine going away to war, fighting for my country, become a tortured POW, and then finally when I make it home have to face a series of allegations calling me a communist. It’s hard to believe that America could turn so quick on its own people. Its terrifying to think that the level of paranoia during the Red Scare was so high that American automatically assumed anyone who ever learned about communist was secretly plotting to take over the government. It seems contradictory to me that America was fighting to spread democracy by containing Communism. Isn’t the American way one of freedom? Don’t Americans have the right to believe whatever they want without being charged with treason?
I also found it interesting how much World War II veterans played a role in the Korean War. I didn’t know so many veterans re- enlisted to fight for the Korean War. I bet they were surprised when they returned home for the second time. It was the complete opposite experience of when they returned from World War II. If I was a World War II veteran, I’m not sure if I would have gone back and fought in Korea. They literally got home five years ago, I don’t think I would have been ready to be deployed again.
This reading was very insightful about what was going on in the politics of the wars. I never understood why certain decisions were made throughout the Vietnam War, but now it’s a lot more clear. The Domino Theory probably had the biggest affect on the decisions made by the administrations. In a similar way the Domino Theory is being used today to explain the War on Terror in Iraq. Just how America was afraid that if one country fell to communism then many would follow, today we fear terrorism. America feels that we must set a precedent against terrorism to show that it is intolerable, but at what cost are we willing to make that statement? This is the same question the government had trouble asking in the sixties and seventies about communism.
I thought it was interesting how the two main goals in America during the fifties and sixties contradicted each other. One goal was to have peace. The other goal was to contain communism. How can you do one without sacrificing the other? This was the reason why the Korean War was so vague. No one knew how to label it because no one wanted to give up either of the goals. However, I don’t think correctly labeling the Korean War as a war instead of “police action” would have helped in the end result.
The Agent Orange Affair is another example of how the American Government abuses its soldiers. This is not the first time the government has caused trouble in the lives of veterans and then stood by and watched them struggle with the issue on his own. It still boggles my mind how the govenment refused to help the soldiers they disabled. The actual combat part Vietnam was arguably the most intense and terrifying experience of all the American Wars because it was so distinct. The war created such a negative outlook on America’s government, you would think they would try to do everything they could to right the wrong. You would think the government would try to get some type of positive energy out of Vietnam by caring for their soldiers, but they did the complete opposite. When the VA refused to treat the veterans, according to Severo and Milford, “the veterans were confused about what had happened to them, angry at what they felt was their betrayal by a nation that no longer cared about them” (370).
Not only was the government refusing to treat its veterans, but it was denying any wrong doing on their part. If I was a veteran I would have been extremely frustrated that the government was refusing to treat a problem they caused me. I don’t understand how the government and VA could say that Agent Orange had no affect on the veterans when clearly similar “unknown” symptoms were popping up all over the country. Personally, if the government makes a mistake, I would much rather them admit it than try to cover it up.
So I was sitting at my desk eating breakfast this morning and checking the headlines and I saw this article. Check it out, it’s pretty interesting. It was put out by CNN this morning.
Study: Many of homeless are vets
( I hope the link works, if not you can always copy and paste)
Ron Kovic’s story is an incredible one. When I read this type of book, I can’t help but wonder how I would respond given similar circumstances. Would I have been able to endure all the hardships Kovic wrote about? It’s devastating to think of how helpless he was. Anytime he wanted to do anything, there was a huge production put into motion for his own be nefit. I don’t think I would have been able to mentally survive the fact that I could never be independent. Knowing that I relied on someone else for the most trivial things would probably destroy me. Last year, I hurt my ankle and couldn’t walk for a month and it completely changed my morale. That injury was a minuscule fraction compared to Kovic and I truly admire him for getting through those tough times and finding the light in the tunnel.
What struck me the most was the lonliness he felt. He had an entire parade held in his name and he was still alone. It’s ironic that he felt so alone when there wree hundreds of people cheering him on. I can certainly understand the way Kovic felt however. The parade was put together with the intention of welcoming Ron Kovic and Eddie Dugan back into the comunity, but I feel it achieved the complete opposite. Riding in a car while everyone is watching you can be terribly uncomfortable. No wonder Kovic felt like he was an animal on display in a zoo, he practically was. The people stared at him as he rode down the street observing the full extent of his injury. What made it even worse was when Kovic was literally picked up out of the car and carried to the stage. The embarrassment he must have felt. I imagine that whole parade was rather demeaning; kind of like a show and tell of everything he can not do.
This reading has by far been the most shocking. The first few pages of chapter one was eye- opening. Learning about all the different injuries of the men in the first hospitol was sickening. The most horrifying part though was how nonchalant the doctors were when treating the patients. The man in the bed next to Kovic was dying a disgusting death and the doctors and nurses were laughing and talking about the Packers as it seems they feigned treatment. The second hospitol wasn’t as shocking at first gance, but as I learned more about it, the worse it became. Although Kovic wasn’t tortured by mass hysteria, torture still endured and in some ways worse. During this stay Kovic was finally realizing the extent of his injury and this realization cut him deep. I couldn’t imagine going through the things Kovic went through at that hospitol. It must be very damaging to be so dependent on others while you are so helpless.
Another part of the reading that was interesting was Kovic’s childhood. As he writes about his heros, his dreams, and his education through school, you can’t help but to notice the propaganda. The G.I. Joes, the movies, the space race, and his athletics all pushed him toward a future life in the military. The government new they were going to be fighting a war eventaully and knew that they would need men to volenteer for service. The decades between World War II and Vietnam was basically one big propaganda stunt to recruit men to fight in the next war.
Warfare goes hand and hand with medicine. Warfare creates an increased need for medical care and part of this chapter focused about the high demand for medicine. Omar Bradley was appointed to be the new VA Administrator. In his new position, Bradley made it his goal to improve the medical scene for veterans. Bradey’s job was facilitated by the technology advancements improving the medical field at the time. Gambine wrote that their was a significant increase in the amounts of soldiers who survived their wounds. The increased mortality was partially due to the discovery of penicillin and improved surgical techniques. So it was good that more soldiers were surviving, but this also meant more soldiers needed help after the war. Physical therapy and psychological therapy also expanded immensely in the post war era, but unlike the medical advancements of the time, Bradley had a lot to do with these improvements. By creating more hospitals in easier access areas, more veterans could be treated which created a demand for doctors. Bradley also found a solution to this problem and that was to create a program that bridged the military and medical teaching institions. This new tie incrased the quality of doctors and rennovated the structure of VA medicine.
This bridge between the medical world and the military was formed decades ago, however, its relationship is still seen today. Many doctors reeived their training through the military due to certain bonuses affiliated, for example, the miilitary pays your way through medical school. Bradley took the first step in creating programs that recruited better doctors. Through the year other steps have been added, but the same principle idea that Bradley had was the forst stepping stone to the medicine- military relationship we see today.