By: Dick Rose
Editor's Note: The following was written in December 1993, with references to Somalia, Bosnia, and Operation Desert Storm. To those, we can possibly add Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty-one years later, the question remains relevant.
Has the Vietnam War Been Forgotten?
The first reaction is to say, “Of course, not. No way? Can’t happen!” That’s the first reaction. But after that, after the surprise, after the shock, the question repeats itself: Has the Vietnam been forgotten?
It’s a valid question. Has it been forgotten as a war? Has it been forgotten as a personal experience? It hasn’t been - not by us, not by the guys who served and hurt and survived there. It never will be.
But what about as a "National Experience?" Has it become a symbol, a cliché to be used by politicians?
“Somalia must never become another Vietnam.” “As we become involved in Bosnia, the Vietnam Syndrome clicks in.”
As a symbol of national conscience, it remains. Much as the Korean Conflict (never officially a war) became “The Forgotten War,” however, Vietnam can be relegated to phrase status.
For years we were forgotten, ignored, written off. Then, during Operation Desert Storm, we were suddenly discovered - for a moment; honored, for a moment; given a part in the Hollywood Parade honoring those who followed us, for a moment; remembered in a few movies; for a moment; and then, forgotten again, dismissed from the national awareness.
Twenty years ago, in the movie, The Way We Were, Barbara Streisand sang, “What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.” That may have become the theme song of the generations other than ours.
“It was too painful, it didn’t make sense. We don’t understand it. Let’s forget it.”
So, they can forget it. They can. We can’t. Do we really want to?