When you serve in the military long enough you walk away with so many experiences worthy of a PhD in leadership, management and human relations. For example, John Kelley, Trump’s Chief of Staff and I have something in common. At one time or another we served for a totally incompetent person. We would say things, like, “It took an act of congress….” Or, “I should have attended that university where they handed out diplomas like glasses of water (or beer).”
I am a Vietnam Veteran. Funny thing about being a veteran is that when you tell someone you are a Vietnam Veteran people think of combat, guns, bullets, blood, helicopters. Combat forces made up a small percentage of the military force. The clear majority were in some type of support function.
The Army relied heavily on the draft to fill its manpower needs. Every high school graduate knew that within a few days they would be getting a letter from their local draft board telling them to report for a physical and induction. There were some high school graduates that were very gung ho and joined the Army and Marine Corps to go to Vietnam. These were the true patriots. Some may have served for the fun and excitement but it was not a large group but they deserve special mention.
High school graduates often looked at volunteering to join the military to forego the draft. Favorite service to avoid the draft was the Air Force, then the Navy or Army as a last resort. The Army was a gamble. If you got drafted you got the job the Army gave you. If you volunteered you were given a chance to select your job depending on your test scores.
For those that could not weasel their way out of the draft, their only choice was Plan A the draft. There was always Plan B, go to college, join the Air or Army National Guard or their twin brothers the Army or Air Reserve. Then there were the other options, put your tail between your legs and high tail it to Canada, Sweden or even Mexico. Thousands did. Eventually these protestors (technically they were draft dodgers) were repatriated. What is sad is that many died in their place. For every American that enrolled in a four-year college to avoid the draft four draftees had to take their place. Someone had to take the place of every person that avoided the draft for whatever reason. The replacements were: 1. Poor Whites, 2. Latinos, 3. African Americans. Probably there were more men that got away from serving in Vietnam than served.
Those that joined the Army were called RA (Regular Army), those that got drafted were called AUS (Army of the United States). Not everybody that got drafted wrapped the flag around their body. Many were bitter that they were drafted. Draftees were sometime difficult to lead because of their bitterness. These draftees would condemn America’s participation in the war. In some places it was not safe for a sergeant to walk at night by himself for fear of being attacked by his own soldiers. This would be true when the soldiers were having pot/drug parties. We don’t know how many leaders were fragged (Killed by their own men). Not all things were peachy dory in Vietnam. And in true Army fashion, no one wanted to hear whatever problems you had. The tour was one year and you could sleep through it. The old saying goes, “Let a sleeping dog lie.”
I was listening to the news one day when I heard the protests that were being held in the states against the Vietnam War. I remember saying some derogatory words. See if you are in the volunteer army you are a patriot a true nationalist. An elderly sergeant looked at me straight in the face and scolded me, “You are here so they can do that!”. Up until that time I thought it was every American’s duty to support me and the troops in Vietnam. How wrong I was!!!! Many refuse to believe that dissention is a part of the democratic process. If you get rid of dissention you get rid of democracy.
Those who have never served in the military and wrap themselves with the flag pretending to be patriots, well, they are just a bunch of hypocrites.
By Felix Alvarado