[sixties-l] Returning Home

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Tue Jan 23 2001 - 15:03:09 EST

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    Forgotten History - Returning Home - 01/23/2001

    Returning Home

    >From time to time in the future we will be including letters
    from our readers for "Forgotten History." This letter comes
    from Ken Cambier. It is about returning home from Vietnam:

    Let me fill you in on the real story. The returning GI was
    plucked from the bush with no warning and put on a plane home.
    No counseling, no debriefing, nothing. You were in the bush
    one day and on the streets of home the next, wondering what
    the hell had happened. Many of these guys had, and some still
    have, serious emotional problems that the military simply

    The term of service for a draftee was two years. Training
    (for combat troops, infantry, armor etc.) was during the first
    six months. The tour in Vietnam was one year. This left the
    returning draftees with six months to fill. To use up the time
    KP (kitchen patrol) was one of the most common with three days
    on, three days off, four days on, four days off.

    About two weeks before the term of service was up, you would
    be drug tested. Given that as many as 40% of the returning
    GI's came back with a drug problem (the government says 20%)
    many would fail. You were given the option of being sent to a
    VA hospital or taking a UD (undesirable discharge). Neither
    was favorable option. The fear of being in a VA hospital and
    the stigma of being hospitalized for a drug problem caused
    many to take the UD. Because of the UD a large number were
    denied their Veterans benefits.

    Many combat troops were told that if they re-enlisted, they
    would be given assignments in non-combat areas. Some fell
    for this, only to be sent back to Vietnam after signing their
    re-enlistment papers. Many went AWOL and were given UD's
    with the consequences.

    Some of these GI's fought back and formed the Vietnam
    Veterans Against the War. They opened offices in many large
    cities and counseled GI's on how to avoid being used as fodder
    by the military. (editors note: the organization at one time
    had 50,000 members) Most people do not know that one of the
    reasons the government abandoned the draft was because of
    the large number of war resisters within the military. By
    1974, there were 50,000 men who had refused to take part in
    the war.

    Lastly, and most significantly, the majority of the combat
    troops who went to Vietnam went because they were more
    concerned about what the government would do to them if they
    refused then what they would do if they went. Only one in my
    company of 160 infantrymen wanted to go, and the military sent
    him to Germany. At no time were you told what you were doing
    was the right thing, only what would happen if you didn't
    (military prison, dishonorable discharge, and a ruined life.)
    I was told outright by my military commander, "Son, you will
    do as you are told, or you will go to jail."

    The real atrocity of the Vietnam war was not the way returning
    GI's were treated by civilians, but the way they were treated
    by the military.

    Thank you, Ken

            Forgotten History - Tuesday, January 23, 2001
             "Little known facts and overlooked history"
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