An Open Letter to Secretary of Defense Gates

Dear Secretary of Defense Gates:

You have a great opportunity to right a long-standing wrong against the veterans of the Vietnam War with the Vietnam War Commemoration event which I understand is being planned. These Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen fought the bloodiest battle of the Cold War, and stopped the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia. The U.S. has never officially thanked them for their sacrifice and valor. The myths about the Viet Nam War are legend, but one of the most pernicious is that the Viet Nam Vets returned home broken and bowed, ashamed that they were not able to defeat the North Vietnamese aggressors in South Viet Nam. Of course none of that is true. The American Military performed valiantly and successfully on the battlefields of South Viet Nam and in the air above North Viet Nam. 

The Viet Nam veteran survivors of the war are dwindling rapidly. One estimate is only a third of them still are living. I call upon you and the members of Congress to let the veterans know that their years of combat are appreciated by a grateful nation. I urge our Senators and Representatives to get involved in the planning and support of the Commemoration.

Only a very few veterans, or citizens, know of the upcoming Commemorative, it’s scale, it’s activities, and the timing. I know that there are those who would seek to once again belittle and even ignore the Viet Nam vets. You cannot let that happen. No matter the outcome, the dissention, the protests and the political disarray, the U.S. military performed magnificently in that long war. They believed in obeying their government, and they saw, as the world did, the consequences of a Communist conquest after they came home. 

The commemoration is not a political event, a statement on the Viet Nam War, nor an angstful re-hashing of the war’s merits, strategy, tactics and cost. It is a tribute to those who wore their country’s uniform, and served it to the best of their ability.

This is a time for that homecoming parade, those VFW and American Legion barbeques, those speeches of patriotism and thankfulness. I call upon you and all the members of Congress to get involved, get updated, lend support, and be the America that those men fought for in the jungles of South East Asia.

Phillip Jennings, USMC, Vietnam Veteran