Shaun D. Mullen (
Tue, 16 Sep 1997 08:46:09 -0400

For me, there is a common denominator in the vets/antiwar conundrum it
has taken 30 years to understand: Vietnam veterans and protesters alike
were heroes.

I came to that conclusion from several perspectives: As editor of my
college rag when the first flames of protest began flickering. Working
as a reporter and editor in the Far East at the height of the war.
Returning home to be reunited with a dear friend whose life had become
inextricably, agonizingly linked with the underground because of his
deep revulsion of the war, and remains so to this day. Eighteen months
spent in the mid-1980s leading a special project that resulted in
biographies of all 630 boys and young men from Philadelphia who died in
the war. Yearly journeys to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in
Washington, most recently last November on the astoundingly moving
occasion of Kim Phuc's visit there.

I have concluded that, when all is said and done, it does not matter if
you died or were maimed taking a hit for a buddy, whether in the Central
Highlands or in a street protest at home. It does not matter if you
were killed in a whorehouse brawl in Saigon, drowned trying to cross a
rice paddy because you couldn't swim (an incredible number of inner city
kids never made it back for that most mundane of reasons), or wanted to
flee to Canada after your draft notice arrived, but never quite had the
balls to do so no matter how much you hated the war.

All of these people, in their own way, were heroes.

This is not an effort to bring closure to or present a pat answer to the
vets/antiwar thread. Nobody is going to do that, although I do find the
white-hot anger that seeps through some of the posts to be rather sad.
Some of us seem to have allowed ourselves little time down through the
years to be anything but angry.

Shaun Mullen
West Grove, PA