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Vietnam Revisited: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

On July 8, 1972, Air Force Captain Steve Ritchie flying an F-4D Phantom shot down two North Vietnamese MiG fighter aircraft, the Communists’ most prized possession in just 89 seconds. Two months later, he shot down his fifth and final MiG and with it became the Air Force’s only “ace” pilot since the Korean War. The only American pilot to shoot down five MiG-21s.

In another time and another war, Ritchie, a small-town boy and a high school football star, would have been hailed as a hero who represented all that was courageous and good about America. There would have been parades and the keys to the city. This time, though, Ritchie’s homecoming, like that of hundreds of thousands of his fellow Vietnam-era servicemen, would not be sweet. It was a thankless airplane ride home from two tours of duty in Southeast Asia. “I was spit on in San Francisco, in uniform,” Ritchie would later recall.

Vietnam. The war liberals love to hate. Vietnam. The only war liberals ever won, because America lost. It was a war started by liberals for all the right reasons, and ended by liberals for all the wrong reasons. And it stands today as the Left’s raison d’etre.

Iraq. The war liberals love to hate. Iraq. The war liberals want America to lose because it was started by George Bush for all the right reasons. Liberals are quick to paint parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. Liberals relentlessly use the handy Vietnam analogy to accuse their own country of dishonesty and to joyously predict its defeat. Senator Ted Kennedy, whose brother ironically started the whole Vietnam mess, repeats the mantra, “Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam.” Former Democratic Senator Max Cleland equated the two conflicts in an op-ed piece for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President.” Howard Dean tells a gleeful Dan Rather, “We sent troops to Vietnam, without understanding why we were there√?¬Ę√Ę‚??¬¨ ¬¶And Iraq is gonna become a disaster under this presidency.”

In reality, the battlefield truths could not be more disparate. Liberals can’t be bothered with the facts, though.

What is alarmingly similar, however, is the liberal response to our men and women in uniform.

At a 4th of July parade in the Seattle, Washington, area, Jason Gilson, a 23-year-old military veteran who had returned from Iraq, a victim of an ambush on the battlefield, marched. He walked the parade route with his mother, his siblings, and his friends. He wore his medals with pride and carried a sign that read “Veterans for Bush.” It was, after all, a day for patriotism, red, white, and blue bunting, American flags, and firecrackers. Jason was celebrating his commander-in-chief.

As detailed by Robert L. Jamieson, Jr., a columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in an excellent piece entitled “Veteran Gets Rude Welcome on Bainbridge,” the ghosts of Vietnam are surfacing in liberal America.

Jason heard words from the crowd similar to those that American war hero Steve Ritchie heard thirty years earlier.

“Baby killer!”

“Murderer!”

“Booooo!”

The announcer at the event sarcastically asked Jason, “And what exactly are you a veteran of?”

Jason, injured on the battlefield in Iraq, came home to insult and injury in his hometown. Just as in Vietnam, so too in Iraq. During Vietnam, liberals reviled the war and those fighting it. They viewed the military with the same disdain with which they viewed their government. Who else but dupes would fight for their country?

The spirit of the anti-Vietnam, anti-military Democrats thrives today, on the streets of Bainbridge, Seattle, Washington, on our college campuses, in films by Michael Moore, and among the elite media from New York to Los Angeles. It is embodied in the candidacy of John Kerry who returned from four months of service in Vietnam and has spent the entire of his political life repudiating those with whom he served.

By contrast, Ritchie and Gilson, proud soldiers, fought our wars, risked life and limb, and came home quietly to an ungrateful nation.

Our soldiers deserve better.

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