ROCKWALL, TX (Sept. 21, 2022) Imagine that it is now the early 1970’s and you are happy with your life even though there are things going on in the world that cause you concern.
One of these things is the US involvement in a country all the way on the other side of the world: Vietnam.
Since November 1963, the US has been actively supporting the government of South Vietnam in their struggle with their adjacent neighbor, North Vietnam. Although you really don’t know very much about why the US involvement, you do know that the struggle between these two parts of Vietnam has been ongoing since the 1950’s and the US has really been actively involved since about August of 1963.
In July of 1965, the US sent 50,000 troops into South Vietnam, and in August the US started full scale combat operations. By November, 300 US Soldiers had been killed and more and more US troops continued to be sent to that country: 400,000 by 1966 and an additional 150,000 the next year.
And in 1964 protests over our involvement in this war started in the US. First, they started small among peace activists and leftist intellectuals on college campuses. But in 1965 after the US began bombing North Vietnam in earnest, anti-war marches, and other protests, such as ones organized by Students for a Democratic Society, attracted a wider base of support.
While the anti-war movement began mostly on college campuses, most of the American population supported the President. But by the end of 1965 a small but outspoken liberal minority was making its voice heard.
By November of 1967 American troop strength in Vietnam was approaching 500,000 and US casualties had reached 15,058 killed and 109,527 wounded. The US was spending over $25 Billion each year on the war.
In October of 1967, a major anti-war protest took place as over 100,000 protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial and then 30,000 later marched on the Pentagon. Fighting broke out between the protesters and Soldiers and US Marshals.
And then in January of 1968 the Tet Offensive happened. Major battles ranged all over Vietnam and while the US and South Vietnam forces won the tactical battle, they lost the support of most Americans back in the States. Now the protests really began to escalate.
By early February of 1968, the month after the Tet Offensive, a Gallup pool showed that only 35% of the American people approved of the Administrations handling of the war.
Major protests continued with the Democratic Convention in Chicago in August of 1968 causing another violent exchange between protesters and authorities.
Then in May of 1970 a National Guard unit on Kent State University property shot and killed four students and wounded 13 more who were protesting the war involvement.
500,000 protesters held a rally by the Lincoln Memorial; 100,000 in both New York and San Francisco at the same time as the Lincoln Memorial protest. Over 250 universities had to close to prevent student occupation in protest form.
US veterans of the Vietnam war were throwing their medals on the steps of the Capitol, and such spokesmen as John Kerry, who later became Secretary of State, appealed to Congress to end the war. Protesting continued throughout America and the only projected end was for the involvement in that war to end.
For those of us who fought in that war, our hearts were broken over two events: the killing of those students at Kent State, and the miserable way in which we left Vietnam with the subsequent collapse of that country.
When we came home, it was clear that America was split. Most people had turned against the war, and while not all were active protesters, their attitude clearly exhibited the division that the country exhibited over the previous 10 years.
Finally, a cease fire was reached at the diplomatic table and all US forces were pulled out of Vietnam. But, 58,220 American service men and women lost their lives, South Vietnam troops lost 250,000 dead with another 2,000,000 civilians killed, while North Vietnam lost over 1,100,000 dead.
So why write about something that happened 50 years ago?
As during the Vietnam War, our country is divided today: politically, moralistically, strategically, lifestyles, and the list goes on. Many see no end in sight and no end to the various divisions. Politicians on both sides of the aisle make statements that make little sense and continue to rise to even higher levels of uncertainty.
Believe me, what we are going through now is nothing like what our country went through during the years of the Vietnam War. Many thought we would never recover from all the unrest and discontent of that period in our lives.
But we did. We survived and moved on following that basic document that holds America together: the Constitution.
Don’t give up and don’t think America is doomed. Once again, we will survive. Do all you can to help make that happen.
Submitted Letter to the Editor/Guest Column contributed by Jerry Hogan, a former Rockwall County Judge. He can be reached at email@example.com or 214-394-4033.
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