[August 21, 2022] Guest blogger Ernest M. Kennedy III has written several articles in my leadership blog over the years.1 His central premise is that the “protests” were not about the war itself but about the fear of being drafted. That fear translated into mass violence, murder and assaults on our troops, and a craven political movement to demonize the troops who were fighting. Those who protested did so out of cowardice; and they should be shamed for their lack of decency and personal weakness in the face of danger. Here is one of his best articles:
“In helping fight the wars of the United States, I gained a personal and up-close view of the human depravity of war, the particular ignominy of Communist aggression, and the shame of those Americans who degraded our returning servicemen. As I age, the Vietnam War gains a healthier perspective the mind of Americans and gives me the impetus to tell the tale of veterans who suffered at the hands of other Americans when they returned home honorably … America, home, a place where we wrongly thought we were no longer in danger.
My friends and I call those Americans who avoided the draft a particularly derogatory and vulgar term “lingering toadeaters.” These are the people who ran away from their duty as a citizen and now enjoy the perks of political office or successful businesses (you can see my opinion on them here). The moral corruption of these men (and yes it was only men who dodged the draft) is not so different from ordinary citizens who were active in their behavior when they attacked and otherwise harassed our troops. Yet stories of the heroism of our troops and the daily atrocities I witnessed, perpetrated by the Viet Cong enemy is not my point here but they are for my family and friends when we share a cold Budweiser on my porch out back.
Those Americans who were active in either attacking our veterans physically or verbally, as a politician or as a private citizen will never be forgotten. That is my point. Like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter who had to wear a patch of fabric in the shape of an “A” to signify her as an adulterer, those who participated in degrading our troops, privately or publically, should forever bear the shame of their actions. To show my personal magnanimity, I’m here to help them remember … it’s my duty, yes, but it is especially my pleasure to remind them of their abased and perverted conduct.
Some people will complain that I refuse to conceal the wound of the war that has yet to fully heal. But that in itself would be most shameful. To hide the fact that many Americans acted so dishonorably when the nation was at war with a deadly enemy would be offensive to anyone with even an ounce of moral conviction and it’s something that I refuse to do. Someone once said that shame is the most powerful master emotion – I agree and my intent here is to invoke it.
I fought in the jungles of Vietnam and looked the enemy directly in the eye and killed him. That was my duty and my obligation. Despite U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s lack of resolve and timidity when it came to the war and his failure to lead the nation as he ought to have done, ordinary citizens should have had the fortitude to stand up and reject the political opportunism of those like him and Senators Ed Koch, Robert Kennedy, or Al Gore, Sr. Any of those political twits would have gotten me and my buddies killed. Such is the difference between a rare steak dinner and horse crap.
Yes, there were leaders who presided over the shameful behavior of many Americans. “Hanoi” Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, Tom Hayden, and many other lesser well-knowns were deeply into the destruction of the United States and its military. Future generations will never get the chance to tell them about the shame they brought upon themselves and their families. Remember that what we do today echoes throughout history and my job is to help it echo loudly. Now, it’s time to feed my dog, clean my rifle, and tell my wife I love her.”
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).