2,709,918 Americans served in uniform in Vietnam.
Vietnam vets represented 9.7% of that generation.
The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of
North Weymouth, Mass. Listed by the US DoD as having been
killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Vietnam
Wall Memorial with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl.
Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed Sept. 7, 1965.
There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Vietnam Wall Memorial.
39,996 on the Wall were 22 years of age or younger.
8283 were 19 years of age.
33,103 were only 18 years old, the largest age group.
12 were only 17 years of age.
5 were only 16 years of age.
One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock, was only 15 years of age.
997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam.
1448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam.
31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.
75,000 military in Vietnam were severely injured.
23,214 were 100% disabled from their injuries.
5283 lost a limb.
1081 lost multiple limbs.
Of the KIA, 17,539 were married.
Thirty-one sets of parents lost two of their sons.
8 women's names are on the Wall.
244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during
the Vietnam War, 153 of those names are on the Wall.
The most deaths for a single day was January 31, 1968,
with 245 reported casualties.
The most deaths for a single month was May 1968,
with 2415 casualties reported.
There are over 80,000 casualties related to PTSD, drug overdose and suicide.
Sometimes when a Vietnam veteran is asked when he was there and he
replies, "last night", it's not as a joke. He means it, because she
or he lives with it nightly.
The American military was *NOT* defeated in Vietnam. The American military
did not lose a battle of any consequence. Most Vietnam vets will say
"When all my Brothers left Vietnam, we were winning."
Many vets bear visible scars of their service - a missing limb,
a jagged scar, even a certain look in their eyes.
Others may carry the evidence of their service inside them,
such as a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel never
removed from a leg, or perhaps another sort of inner metal,
the soul's alloy forged in the refinery of adversity.
Except in parades, the men and women who have kept America safe,
wear no badges or emblems. You can't tell someone is a vet
simply by looking at them. So, what and who is a vet?
A Vet is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi
Arabia sweating two gallons of water a day, making sure the armored
personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.
A Vet is a young man just come home from Afghanistan or some
other middle east country.
A Vet is some bar room loudmouth, who is dumber than a box of rocks,
whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred-fold in the
cosmic scale of things by his four hours of sheer bravery
near the 38th parallel in Korea.
A Vet is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep
sobbing every night for two years in Da Nang.
A Vet is the PoW who went away one person and came back another -
or didn't come back at all.
A Vet is the drill instructor who has never seen combat, but has
saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no account kids into -
Marines, soldiers, sailors and Coast Guardsmen, and teaching them
to watch each others backs.
A Vet is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins his ribbons and medals
on with a prosthetic hand.
A Vet can be - your grandfather or grandmother, father, mother,
brother, sister, uncle or aunt, or the neighbor down the street.
A Vet is the retired optometrist who once flew P38 Lightning
fighters against Japanese Zero's in the Pacific.
A Vet is the high school superintendent who saw more and felt more
than most people ever will, while serving as an infantryman
A Vet served in a war zone or aboard a submarine, or here in America
on active duty or in the National Guard or Reserves.
A Vet is the three anonymous heroes buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns,
whose presence at Arlington Cemetery must forever preserve the memory
for all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them
on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless depths.
A Vet is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket,
palsied now and aggravatingly slow, but who helped liberate
a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife
were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
A Vet is a soldier and a savior and a sword against darkness
and he is nothing less than the finest, greatest testimony
on the finest and greatest nation ever known.
So, the next time you meet a Vet, say 'Thank you.'
It's all most will need.
CHARLIE HOTEL, OUT