Thirty-five years ago the last U.S. soldiers left Vietnam. Yet the war continues because Vietnam’s veterans returned home to contempt rather than appreciation. Even today a celebration in their honor–held near Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, NC no less–can’t escape the longstanding divisions. 

Fayetteville’s mayor organized this “homecoming” celebration. But he also invited Quaker House to participate in the festivities. Quaker House represents a pacifist, anti-Vietnam War attitude, a fact readily recognized by the organization’s director, Chuck Fager. Fager defended his group’s participation on the basis that anti-war sentiment is a historical aspect of the Vietnam era. While he’s factually correct, he has missed this event’s point. 

Not every celebration needs to be a history lesson. The Holocaust is a historical fact of World War II. Selling out neighbors to the British was common during the Revolutionary War. But we don’t recognize Nazis on Victory in Europe Day or Tories on Independence Day. These examples are extreme, yet the inclusion of an anti-Vietnam protest organization in a Vietnam veteran’s recognition ceremony is equally inappropriate. 

The mindset represented at Quaker House had its day. Protesters received the hero’s treatment during the Vietnam War. Sure, they had their share of detractors. But media coverage gave protesters far more favor than was their due. Why can’t the Fayetteville celebration honor the soldiers who did Vietnam’s dirty work? Why should they share the spotlight with an organization promoting anti-Vietnam War films featuring the traitorous Jane Fonda, which is Quaker House’s plan? 

Mr. Fager, stay home and keep your sympathizers with you. Keep your films in the can and the North Vietnamese Army’s favorite vixen off the screen. This is the soldier’s day, not yours. Fayetteville’s mayor shouldn’t have invited you and you should gracefully butt-out. 

People can disagree with why Vietnam was fought and how it was managed. They’re free to question and second-guess Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Robert McNamara, or whoever. But the men who fought, bled and died in those steamy jungles didn’t deserve the anti-war protester’s scorn. 

The Vietnam soldier fought the communist expansion in Southeast Asia. They won the battles in a war where political considerations denied them victory. Vietnam’s ultimate outcome wasn’t what their efforts earned. There was no justifiable reason for a misguided generation of Mao disciples and slovenly hippies to spit on them and called them “baby-killers.” 

Vietnam veterans gave what they had and proved that America wouldn’t sit idly in the face of communist aggression. They fought under restraining rules of engagement against an enemy that knew no rules. And they did so at the behest of a government that tied one hand behind their backs before sending them afield. 

Sure, efforts have since been made to recognize and honor the Vietnam veteran’s service and sacrifice. But they deserved a proper homecoming when they returned from Southeast Asia. A little extra recognition now is more than justified.