Kevin Clover is a 1982 graduate of the US. Naval Academy. He served as a commissioned officer in the US Marine Corps.
Beginning in 1959, 1.6 million Americans went to South Vietnam to prevent a violent takeover by communist North Vietnam. Despite their efforts, the South was abandoned to the communist North in 1975. During the years following the war, the estimates of Vietnamese murdered by their own government range between 50,000 and 1 million. We know that 12 million Vietnamese refugees left their home country after 1975 in fear of losing their freedom and their lives.
There were many horrible events during the war but none more appalling than the My Lai Massacre on March 16, 1968. That is the day Lt. William Calley Jr. ordered the killing of 22 unarmed Vietnamese civilians, including women and children, suspected of aiding the communists. Subsequently, the actions of these few American soldiers were projected to the entire US military by the press and those that wished to denigrate the military.
Mistreatment of Vietnam Vets
Glenn Currie served his country in the U.S. Navy from 1965 to 1969, including a tour inside the war-torn nation of Vietnam. Not only did he perform his duty as an American citizen, he went there to protect the people of South Vietnam.
“When I returned from Vietnam in late 1968, I was stationed at the Naval base in Norfolk.” Currie wrote, “I personally was spat upon by two teenagers just after leaving the base one evening. It was not an isolated incident. The whole situation got so bad in this Navy town that regulations came out from the base commander that military personnel were not allowed to wear their uniforms off the base on liberty.”
This mistreatment of U.S. military personnel and veterans was a frequent occurrence in the years following the Vietnam war as well. Events such as the Reagan presidency, the successful military operation in Grenada, and the construction of the Vietnam Memorial made Americans realize how poorly they had treated their own servicemembers.
Today, America’s veterans hold a special status in society. Not only are they hailed as heroes, they benefit from taxpayer and charitable money through such organizations as the Veterans Administration and the Wounded Warriors Project. Our country has completely reversed society’s attitude towards veterans since the 1970s. That reversal is due, in part, to the collective guilt felt about how veterans were treated during that shameful period of US history. America owed them an apology.
Appreciating our Heroes
The My Lai Massacre ignited a public outcry against the Vietnam war in much the same way as George Floyd’s death has galvanized the country in preventing police brutality. When asked why he ordered the execution of women, children, and the elderly, Calley replied, “That was my job that day. That was the mission I was given.” He was convicted of premeditated murder and given a life sentence. I suspect that Derek Chauvin’s defense will include something similar. Like Calley’s excuse for his monstrous act, Chauvin's excuse will be ignored by a jury. Like Calley, Chauvin will be convicted and rightfully so.
However, the most disturbing aspect of both events was and is the reaction of large groups of Americans who have smeared the reputation of millions of men and women who voluntarily risked their lives every day to protect those same Americans…our military…our police. Slanderous are the words and behavior of such individuals and organizations. They promote chaos and discontent.
For the second time in a generation, a section of our country is attacking our best citizens. Furthermore, the country's leadership is "on the sidelines" letting it happen. Pray for the police, past and present, that are enduring this shameful period in our country’s history. Another societal apology is forthcoming. May our country’s protectors once again be accorded the respect and stature they so richly deserve.