I did not serve in the Vietnam War—the last U.S ground troops were departing South Vietnam in August 1972 just as I was completing Army basic training. I finished my two-year enlistment in 1974 and came back home to enroll as a student at the University of Colorado.
I remember sitting in class one day when the subject of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War came up. One student argued that the only ones who allowed themselves to be drafted and sent to Vietnam were too dumb to know how to avoid military service.
Sadly, this sentiment was shared by many in the antiwar movement. Many of those who avoided being drafted into military service during Vietnam looked down on those who willingly participated. The American people became increasingly divided about support for the Vietnam War policy and those who fought. Too many Vietnam vets were never welcomed home and thanked for their sacrifices.
Today, the deep level of respect the American people have for those who have served our country in the military is heartening. Even during the height of the politically divisive Iraq War, Americans have been united in their respect for those who have served. They also feel a profound sense of responsibility to take care of our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans after they came home.
We must never again forget to appreciate the sacrifices of those who have served our nation in uniform. Veterans Day is a great day to thank all our nation’s Veterans.