The Voices of U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Victims
Vietnam Full Disclosure is a project offering a more truthful history of the Vietnam War.
Memorial Day 2015 coincides with the 50th anniversary of the arrival of U.S. ground troops in Vietnam, and 40 years since the U.S. defeat.
The poignant May 25 holiday will see the Vietnam Full Disclosure project present letters from soldiers and civilians to "The Wall," the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Senator Hiram Warren Johnson once said, "The first casualty when war comes is truth." This letterwriting project, which gave people an opportunity for people to share their ongoing grief and experiences related to the disastrous war, was prompted by the announcement of a 65-million-dollar Pentagon campaign to whitewash the legacy of the war, launched by the Pentagon this year. The U.S. war on truth continues, but the Vietnam Full Disclosure project presented an opportunity to fight back.
One of the organizers, veteran Jim Baldridge, explained the importance of this project:
"As Veterans, our legacy includes these commemorations and the resistance to wars present and future. It is a legacy of awareness and resistance, of ensuring that the society and system that sends young people to fight their wars understands the absolute duty to care for them when they return. It is a legacy of tolerance, diplomacy, respect and dignity to help us right the wrongs of imperialism and global economic domination for the benefit of the few to the expense of the many; a legacy of teaching and helping younger generations continue the fight for all of us, now and into the future."
Below are excerpts from a series of the letters.
"The first casualty when war comes is truth,"
U.S. Senator Hiram Warren Johnson
"So I still carry some survivor guilt, for the message I received was that if you were wounded, that was a partial sacrifice, but the only ultimate way to truly fully serve, was to not come back at all. That level of insanity leaves little room for forgiveness and self-acceptance for the service that one was able to give. Of course, the participation in war needs to be reconciled with the cultural betrayal, the misdirected choice in submitting to such a misleading enterprise." – Douglas H. Ryder, President, VFP Eisenhower Chapter 157
"That war ripped our guts out. Dismantled our souls. Divided families and friends. Created lasting scars … And the Vets. God help us. They were abandoned. They were the only visible emblems of a war that made us all crazy. The whole nation was in shell shock … millions then and now, all with PTSD. There will never be a wall big enough to hold the names of all the casualties of that war." -Maggie writing to her cousin Dave who died at 19
"Wasn't I taught that we were always 'the good guys'?"
"Nothing can be said about the Vietnam War that will ever fill the empty holes left in the chests of those you left behind, regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion. The war you fought was motivated by greed, obsessive power, false premises, lies, ideological arrogance, religious intolerance and self-serving propaganda." - Jerry Genesio, U.S. Army Captain
"The only way we can bring meaning to your deaths is to remember you and to strengthen our resolve to work against war as an instrument of foreign policy." - Marion Malcom writing to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall
"The war you fought was motivated by greed, obsessive power, false premises, lies, ideological arrogance, religious intolerance and self-serving propaganda."
"This war profoundly affected me and the way in which I view my country. It opened my eyes to the warning President Eisenhower left office with about the threat posed by the military-industrial complex. It became the foundation upon which I judged the many military interventions that have occurred over my lifetime. What has followed this tragic war has been a never-ending series of equally tragic military blunders that have enriched the few: Halliburton, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Lockeed-Martin, Dow Chemical, etc." – Tom Mikulka
"Today, four decades after the U.S. war in Vietnam ended, believe me when I say that we will continue this quest, to rightly assume responsibility for the devastation we have left in America's wake in Vietnam – tons of unexploded bombs, and the toxic poison of Agent Orange. We pledge to continue our efforts, though shamefully inadequate, to help heal Vietnam. And to sustain American veterans and their families who are stilll suffering the consequences of that war." - Chuck Searcy, U.S. Army SP5, 519th MI Battalion, Vietnam June 1967-68
"What has followed this tragic war has been a never-ending series of equally tragic military blunders that have enriched the few"
"When I heard that a black granite wall was being constructed in Washington, D.C. to memorialize those who sacrificed the most during the Vietnam War, I felt nothing but anger. If anything, I felt that the memorial fund should have been used to put the lying war profiteers behind bars for the rest of their lives. Why shouldn't THEY, who start the wars, be punished? There will always be war as long as THEY are allowed to get away with it?" - Mark Foreman, US Navy Corpsman/3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Vietnam 1968 Lifetime Member of Veterans For Peace
"I am fifty now. You might think in all these years that I would have made sense of it, that I could finally believe it was more than just senseless death and destruction. Wasn't I taught that we were always "the good guys"? The powerful, the wealthy and elite, many in the halls of Washington, are still trying to spin it, to put it in some sort of good light. But if I bought that, if (even worse) I repeated that lie, I fear it would be one more betrayal of you." -Gail Coleman