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WHAT IS A VIET NAM VETERAN
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I am your neighbor. I am your mailman. I'm your local policeman. I'm your local fireman. I'm homeless. I'm messed up! I'm an attorney. I'm a doctor. I'm a chief executive. I'm any man, every man. I'm every American! I'm a Vietnam Veteran, and damn proud of it!
We're legion - and some of us have forgotten our pride. We left these shores thinking various thoughts. Some of us were looking for adventure and excitement. Some of us were "running away" from things at home. Many of us were hoping to grow up.
Some of us never had the opportunity. Others of us squandered that chance. And most of us accomplished our individual goals. We are proud Americans, regardless of the outcome that politicians
dictated for Vietnam.
WELCOME HOME, BROTHERS!
A U.S. AIR FORCE COMBAT VET ( 'NAM '65-66 )
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WHAT IS A VIET NAM VETERAN
This is a question often asked by the generation of today. It is not an easy question to adequately answer because not all Viet Nam Vets will fall into a description given by one person.
Let me begin by stating some facts about the Viet Nam Vet and then you will understand the complexity of trying to accurately describe him or her.
  1. During the height of the war the average number of Americans in Viet Nam was about 500,000. It is said a total of 2.6 million Americans served in Viet Nam.
  2. Of that 500,000 only 50,000 were in actual combat. (Usually about 10%.)
This fact indicates how difficult it would be to give a comprehensive description of a Viet Nam Vet. So what I will attempt to do is give you some statistics about combat vets and let you draw your own conclusions.
  1. We lost almost 59,000 men and women during the 16 years of Viet Nam. As of 5 years after the war was officially over, we had 150,000 Viet Nam Vets that had committed suicide.
  2. The suicide rate for Viet Nam Vets is 86% higher than the national average of peers of the same age group.
  3. 70% of all one car accidents is Viet Nam Vets (was it really an accident).
  4. 60% of all Viet Nam Vets have serious emotional problems.
  5. Between 50 and 60% have a history of alcohol and drug abuse.
  6. The unemployment rate for Viet Nam Vets is double the national average.
  7. The divorce rate for Viet Nam Vets is almost 3 times as many as the national average.
  8. About 25% of all incarcerated people are Viet Nam Vets. (Most are non-violent crimes).
  9. 56% of all homeless Americans are veterans, 44% are Viet Nam Vets.
These are stats you don't hear about unless you are trying to find them out. What you do hear is that a Viet Nam Vet is a bearded, motorcycle gang member with psychological disorders and violent tendencies. They are anti-social and a threat to our way of life. Although this may be true of some it by no means
describes 98% of them.
Normally you would never know he was a Viet Nam Vet because he or she would never share that with you. He or she normally is a man or woman working next to you that does his or her job and goes home. He is in every area of this society and usually out performs others in the same field. He may have been on the same job 20 years but chances are that he has held numerous jobs and probably will never achieve enough time on one to draw any retirement benefits.
On the surface he looks like anyone else but underneath is a complex man of deep feelings and emotions. He may be physically there but mentally he could be one of the MIAs (Missing in America). He maybe emotionally isolated and may even be physically removed from the routine of everyday life that most of us endure with ambivalence. He is a POW of a war that he doesn't even realize is still raging inside of him. He may look good on the outside but there's a numbness inside that doesn't allow him to have feelings like normal men and women. His family witnesses him die daily but when confronted he will deny that he has a problem. Afterward he feels so guilty that he just gets drunk and stares at the TV for hours and hours not really seeing anything except the recesses of his mind. He usually has difficulty with authority and constantly criticizes the governmental figures.
He may cry a lot or be cold as ice. He can usually handle any crises that comes up with a cool that is never there at Christmas dinner. He may disappear for days without warning and act like nothing happened when he returns. His sleep is never without labor and it is dangerous to wake him suddenly. He usually is obsessed with guns and weapons of all kinds and is never without protection. If he meets another Viet Nam Vet it's almost like they automatically connect on a frequency that no one else is privy to. They may talk for hours about the war but he would never mention one word about it to his own family.
Life generally leaves him confused and scared though he won't admit it and he avoids any talk of therapy like the plague. If he does go to therapy it takes Forever to get him to talk because he doesn't trust anyone. He usually has Great ideas and plans but they never materialize because of his unknown fears
prevent him from carrying them out.
As I said this is by no means a comprehensive view of a Viet Nam Vet but it gives you an idea of what many Viet Nam Vets face on a daily basis. God willing we will be able to reach a greater number of them and help them to make the adjustments necessary to cope with life on much better terms.
If you know a Viet Nam Vet please thank him or her for the sacrifice he or she made and is still making and welcome him or her home at last.
Daniel G. Dumas
(President of CAProductions Board of Directors)
1st CAG, 1-1-1 MTT-2, Viet Nam 1967-1968
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