I am angry at some of the things that the anti-war protesters did, and also, I, I know that I have been very angry at them and that I first spent a lot of time not even knowing I was angry at them. When you got off the airplane at Travis Air Force Base in 1970, which I did, uh, it was, that’s when the culture shock began. West Point prepared me, and the Army and Marines prepared everybody very well to go into combat; that’s their job. We were not very well prepared to come home. When we came home, we found out there was a taboo; the taboo is, you don’t talk about having been in combat service or in Vietnam, and, we won’t ask you about it. It was a comfortable contract.
The trouble is, it, it made it very hard for us, particularly the Vietnam veterans to bring up to the surface things that just, as everyone knows, just from simple, common sense, have got to be talked about. So, for ten years, uh, uh, I, I was angry at, at anti-war protesters and didn’t realize it.
Uh, I think about two or three years ago, I was a lot angrier, openly, than I am now. Now, what is the truth is that I am angry at some of the things they did. But here’s what’s important. I, I think that there is still a lot of other anger like acid, running around the generation, that, that hasn’t, uh, been, uh, been, been openly confronted.
Some of it, I think, runs among the anti-war protesters, and I think some of it is, it is being directed at people right at themselves, and this is all common sense, and I think common sense also says that America is at the point where we can begin to look at this.
A very important thing, uh, with respect to the dialogue, and with respect to the anger, is that the first, major statements that have been made about the need to, look at our national remembrance of the war, have been made by Vietnam veterans.
The people that, that in many ways gave the most, certainly gave as much as anyone else in our country’s history, are, are still giving, and they’re giving by exposing themselves. I go back to Phil Caputo’s book, I, I go back to, uh, guys, uh, who expressed themselves in The Wounded Generation. They, they, they have begun the painful process of, of, of this national dialogue.
In, in many ways, an important thing to remember about that ten years while the contract was in, in effect, the contract or the taboo it said, We wont ask, and you don’t answer, is that it was stripping away part of the personhood of the Vietnam veteran.
Now, there were three million of us who came back alive from Vietnam, in round numbers. A very important cohort within the generation, three million. We’re not all twins of each other. We were three million individuals, but one thing that did happen is that we were, we were told to put on our shelf, somewhere up in our hearts, an important part of our life.
Part of our personhood was being stripped away, and in a way, uh, as a metaphor, it can be said that we were turned into the niggers of the 1970s.
We were made a nigger. You make someone a nigger by taking away part of their personhood, by pretending an important part of them doesn’t exist, or even by pretending they don’t exist. You pretend a soldier, who’s been through a searing experience, doesn’t exist as a former soldier. I mean, he can exist as a banker; he can exist as someone who is not employed, or he can exist as someone in law school, but not as a former soldier. You’re making him a nigger.