Vietnam War Veterans

Four years after the first withdrawal of a U.S. battalion, the last U.S. combat troops eventually left South Vietnam on March 29, 1973. In total, there were around 2.5 million Americans served in the Vietnam War. They were not only soldiers but also officers, advisors, nurses, doctors and other units that supported the Republic of Vietnam. American soldiers came home, but the effects of the war were still carried on their shoulders.

When the American soldiers returned home from the World War II, they were greeted as heroes. Parades were held everywhere to honour their sacrifices. Unfortunately, those honour seemed a luxury to the Vietnam veterans. They were mistreated. Some veterans recalled that when they had just landed, people were demonstrating against them. “Many spit on us, and called us rude names.” American society was divided by the Vietnam War as its people were full of doubt about its righteousness. Also, Vietnam, as opposed to the World War II, was a deeply unpopular war. American public, as a result, tried their best to forget about it and tended to forget its veterans as well.

Although most of veterans succeeded in making the transition to civilian life, many did not. About 150,000 came home wounded or amputated, while at least 21,000 were permanently disabled and unable to work for the rest of their lives. Even worse, they did not receive proper and necessary help. The majority of Vietnam veterans came from low-income, working-class households. They could not even afford private health care services, thereby having no choice but to be treated in dirty public hospitals.

Many veterans returned home not only with physical pains but also with psychological problems. They still experienced depression, flashbacks, nightmares, loneliness and inability to get close to others. Those mental problems that many veterans suffered were named as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to a study, almost 700,000 Vietnam veterans returned home with PTSD. However, the Veterans Administration did not recognize its existence until 1979.

Beside medical treatment, earning money for living also was a big problem for these veterans. Each Vietnam veteran was offered 200 USD a month, too little in compared to the WWII veterans, who were supported by the government not only on their living expenses but also on college tuition. Around 250,000 Vietnam veterans could not find a job after finishing their military services. Some of them committed crimes. Within 10 years after returning home, 25 percent of Vietnam veterans was arrested on criminal charges. Because they had to endure so much pain and even felt abandoned by the their own people and country, more than 100,000 Vietnam veterans (the actual number would be even much higher) committed suicide after the war, which is nearly two times the number of soldiers had died in Vietnam.

After a long time mistreating Vietnam veterans, American public began to change their views about them in the 1980s. They began to realize that most of the men were just doing their jobs as a real soldier. Vietnam veterans gradually received more and more recognition. On November 13 1982, the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall was dedicated on Washington DC to honour their sacrifices.

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