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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Rick Weidman can walk onto a stage and sense when he’s facing a crowd of Americans who think they have no reason to care about Vietnam veterans.

Weidman has been advocating for his fellow veterans nearly all his adult life. He knows how to change the mood of a room.

He starts by asking people to stand.

Stand if you’re a veteran, he says. He rattles off the wars and conflicts: Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, World War II and everything in between.

He continues.

Stand if your mother or father served.

Stand if your kid served.

Stand if your aunt or uncle served.

Stand if your brother or your sister served.

By the time he’s done with the list, usually more than 90 percent of the people in the room are on their feet.

Now, they’re ready to talk about Vietnam.

“The key is this,” he told me in a phone interview from his office in Washington. “You have to understand that the men and woman who serve our country are not ‘them’ and ‘they.’ They’re ‘us.’

“I tell people all the time, ‘they are not separate from you and your life. They come out of your community, and they return to your community. It’s a covenant between the American people and those who serve. We need to honor that sacred obligation.'”

Weidman is executive director for policy and government affairs for the Vietnam Veterans of America, which has just joined a class action lawsuit in Hartford against the armed forces.

Their argument: thousands of Vietnam veterans suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder before it was a recognized illness and were wrongfully discharged because of it.

Their demand: upgrade the veterans’ discharges so that they qualify for benefits and the medical coverage they deserve.

Vietnam veteran John Shepherd Jr. filed the original lawsuit. His legal team is with the Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic. (Full disclosure: My stepdaughter is a Yale law student who works for another clinic in the same organization, but she is not involved with this case.)

Weidman says he understands the government’s resistance.

  • The only thing propping up recruitment in a society that treats its citizens like this is the HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT, which makes military service a default option for many. Our REAL enemies are our own institutions; they are the thing that is WRECKING OUR QUALITY OF LIFE.

  • Jim Lou

    Viet Nam Vets are the forgotten generation. They served with honor but not given the respect they deserved.

  • jimjf

    We knew it was an immoral war then. So I can’t “honor” those who “served,” but still respect them as any other human being. But they should still get medical care for PTSD.


      The ones who ran to Canada or did Missionary work in Europe got more respect than we did, the dodgers got jobs so they could earned their way back into the good graces of Americans. You don’t have to honor them that’s your right. Just thank us for protecting those rights. By the way, the military does not start wars. We leave that to our politicians…

      • jimjf

        Yes, the politicians are more to blame. But they can do it because people think it honorable to obey them. The war in Vietnam did nothing to protect any of our rights. Yes, I respect those who resisted the draft, which was the right thing to do.

        • Sorry I changed my mind . I wouldn’t want you watching my back. You sound a lot like Romney, he wanted the war but was too chickenshit to fight in it. I DON’T NEED YOUR RESPECT SAVE IT FOR ROMNEY !!

    • ORAXX

      You might try remembering that the men who fought the war weren’t the ones who started it, kept us there for ten years, or decided how the war was going to be conducted. All wars are immoral, some more so than others. Yet you can’t “honor” the men who got sucked into that mess in Viet Nam? Unbelievable.

      • jimjf

        Those who started the war and supported the war have the greater guilt. I can’t honor people for doing evil. I agree with the Nuremberg principle that “I was only following orders” is not a valid excuse. I can have mercy and compassion for the many on all sides who were hurt by the war. War hurts people and all involved are its victims. I can respect that some had noble motives and were misled. I can respect bravery on each side.

        • ONALIMB

          At least, GIVE US A WELCOME HOME. I have enought guilt, you just add to it. Have a great day.

          • ONALIMB

            Nuremberg? We did not exterminate 6 million humanbeings. I never killed a baby, I only protected self and my unit. “I was following orders” as you tried to shift blame is not the same as we fought. We gave aid to combatants, regardless of the uniform or non-uniform.

          • jimjf

            Fair request. WELCOME HOME TO ALL US MILITARY PERSONNEL! I am glad you made it back alive and pray for your health. If you truly feel guilt, bring it to God who forgives us from all our sins. Your guilt can be completely gone.

          • Save it your words mean nothing to me.


  • jimjf

    We knew it was an immoral war then. So I can’t “honor” those who “served,” but still respect them as any other human being. But they should still get medical care for PTSD.

    • No you didn’t. The real protests started aften we started coming home and told others not to go.

    • 1bythebrooks2

      Bushy started two immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We certainly can honor them and respect them, just as we should Vietnam vets!

      • jimjf

        I’m rethinking this idea of honor. 1 Peter 2:17 (KJV) says ” Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” Even the despotic dictator is to be honored, like everyone else. One can honor and respect all because they are made in the image of God, even if what they do is wrong, even if they are the cause of much suffering. I’ve met a lot of refugees who have fled from war zones, so tend to see the wars from the point of view of the innocent noncombatants that suffer the most. But the fighters suffer also. We can “love the troops” but still hate the wars.

        • 1bythebrooks2

          I agree. Honor our service people, but hate the wars they had to fight!

    • Remember that there was the draft then….

    • The people fighting in Vietnam weren’t the ones that started it and most didn’t have a choice if they wanted to be there and now you want to call them immoral. Some things never change, I only wish you could have been drafted and served next to me and maybe you might have a different outlook.

      • jimjf

        I agree with you that the people that were fighting weren’t the ones who started it. But the choice was there, but it was a hard one. I believe I had the courage, if drafted, to go to jail if my CO application was rejected, but I don’t know for sure. (Actually they quit drafting people about the time I applied as a CO.) Yes, if I had been drafted and went to Nam, I might have had a different outlook. I don’t know if I’d have had the strength to not shoot at someone who I thought was threatening me or those I cared for. It is a terrible position to put a person into.

    • I was in high school back then. Many guys actually wanted to defend our country, and none of us knew the real story. And then there was the draft and many signed up to avoid being drafted. They had a great deal of pride and respect for all Americans. We should always honor those that put their life on the line for us, and we should always hold our leaders resposible for lying to their people.

  • bcarreiro

    We have to learn from this and never turn our backs when they need us the most. They will never be forgotten and We honour our soldiers by standing by their side …always, United We Stand.

  • amarquez647

    I have friends and family who fought, died, and survived Vietnam. I was 18 in 1965. I registered for the draft because that was the law. Just like most of my neighborhood friends, I was conflicted. At that time the military had conscription. In college, the anti-war movement started to make sense to me. That just created more confusion for me. I had friends whose’ conscious dictated that they take action against the war, other friends that wore this nations uniform proudly. All were patriots expressing what was heartfelt convictions.

  • What I don’t understand, when I was drafted in 69 I spent 8 weeks in basic training and 9 weeks in AIT before they sent me to Vietnam. After 17 weeks training I was ready for combat. Now the GOP says we can’t leave Afghanistan because they aren’t trained well enough yet. Just how many years does it take? Just goes to show their’s not a war they don’t like plus if we leave the dept will go down and they won’t be able to blame Obama for it anymore. I’m also tired of hearing them say thank you for your service, when the GOP wants to reduce military pay by 40% as part of their budget. The GOP is also the first to reduce benefits to Vets and also wants to turn the VA into a voucher plan. I guess they’ll just start the draft for their next War !!

  • 7700686

    The viet nam war(conflick) was/is a debackel the polictical leadership of this country caused; why, is to this day, still being studied/ask. It will be another thirty years before we know. Thats the nature of history.

  • Every one of these veterans should get what is rightfully coming to them. Patting them on the back and saying thank you is not enoungh. Our veterans must be taken care to the fullest and too hell with the costs.