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Vietnam veterans proud to have served country

by ROGER GREGORY Contributing Writer
| January 18, 2023 1:00 AM

Naturally, being a Vietnam veteran, I am interested in that history.

First, some interesting facts from the VFW magazine that I didn’t even know.

  • Roughly 9.7% of males in that generation served in Vietnam; a total of 2,594,000 served within the borders of South Vietnam from Jan 11, 1965. 
  • There were 58,275 total deaths. Surprisingly, just 25% of all forces were draftees. (In World War II, it was 66%)
  • About 88% of the men who served in Vietnam were Caucasian (which included Hispanics), 10.6% were African American, and the rest were from other races. Of those killed in action, 87% were Caucasian, and 12% were African American. So it about worked out evenly as the numbers served. 
  • About 76 percent of all men sent to Vietnam were from lower, middle-income families and lower. (My note is that it seemed like neither politicians, nor their families served as well as many rich kids.)
  • Roughly 76% of men who served had a high school diploma, compared to 63% in the Korean War and just 45% of World War II vets.
  • The average age of those served was just 22 years old, with a great number of 19-year-olds.
  • Ninety percent of veterans who saw actual combat said they were proud to have served.

Now this story, from a recent issue of the VFW magazine: There is a high school senior, 17-year-old Jason Lessing, who is an avid podcaster (I don’t even know what a podcaster is!).

Anyway, he won the 2021 Voice of Democracy contest at VFW Post 399, in Westport, Conn. He said he had focused on sports, but when he won the award, he was surrounded by a bunch of Vietnam War veterans, he learned a lot from the brief speech that was given. "It struck me that most high school students learn very little about the Vietnam War in school,” Lessing said.

In my opinion, I don't think students learn much about any of the past wars in school and that is a shame. As Lessing delved into it, he went on to say “we are not properly honoring the sacrifices of our Vietnam veterans.” And also talked about how badly Vietnam vets were treated when they returned home.

From my own experience, I didn’t receive any bad treatment, but then again, I kept my mouth shut. When I worked for retail stores, I never mentioned that I was a Vietnam vet. But others were having things thrown at them, being called “baby killers” and you name it.

People just didn’t understand that as Americans, we were in the military and we did what we were told to do and what we were ordered to do. There is an old saying, “don’t criticize until you have walked a mile in the other person’s shoes.” That is a good saying, but it didn’t make any difference to the young protestors from that day who, in my opinion, didn’t know anything. I could go on and on but will leave it there. As for me? I am proud to have served my country in a war as are almost all other vets. We get the respect now thankfully, but not back then.

Roger Gregory is a Vietnam veteran, serving in the 1st Infantry Division, and is a business owner in Priest River.

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