The day before I was discharged from the Marine Corps, about 8 days after I left Vietnam, I was ordered to get a haircut—a Marine Corps haircut. So, when I finally shed that uniform nobody was going to mistake me for a pot-smoking hippie.
I came home in the summer of 1969, and there were peace protesters all over the place and wearing my uniform was not really an option if I wanted to meet any women, and after more than a year in the Nam meeting women was right at the top of my to-do list
In 1969, Vietnam was on the news all the time—TV, the newspapers, magazines, and radio. There were peace marches at the university, and I was almost in hiding, because all that did was make me think about all the guys I knew who were still over there.
I really don’t know how long it took for me to realize I had been had, and MY War, was really just a scam to make money for the rich.
I really don’t know how long it took for me to realize I had been had, and MY War, was really just a scam to make money for the rich. I do remember when it happened though. My dad owned a bar in downtown Saint Paul, and it was a bar with businessmen and court house workers. It had a sign that said, “Warning, You Are Now 103 Feet From the County Jail.” The bar was on Saint Peter Street right across from the jail. It was a safe place to hang out if you had a white-wall haircut. Most of the guys in there were either WWII Vets or Korean Vets, and several were in both wars. So a returning Marine was thought well of. I remember one guy who asked me if a needed a job, and he said I could work doing something at his plant. They made parts for helicopters and armored trucks. He told me, “This war was the best thing that ever happened to me and my company,” and that there were many other guys in the bar that could say the same. “This war” was not the best thing that ever happened to me though.
I didn’t take the job, but it got me thinking. I was taking classes at the University, not knowing what I wanted to do, just taking those core classes you needed for any major. People were giving anti-war speeches all the time right out on the mall. I would sit on some building’s steps and listen, all the time thinking they just didn’t know what they were talking about, but that guy’s words about making money off the war was always in the back of my mind.
Then one day there was a war protest at Honeywell. Heck my dad used to work there. As far as I knew they made thermostats for homes. Well, today you can Google it and see Honeywell is in the thick of producing all sorts of things for our wars, but back then you had to figure out for yourself if a company was really making money from your war, because there was no Goggle, there was no internet.
Honeywell produced cluster bombs (bomblets), small steel ball bearings embedded in a steel shell. When this antipersonnel weapon explodes, the steel ball bearings shoot out 2, 200 feet per second. Honeywell also made other weapons and civilian products.
Here was a huge corporation right in my own community with good-paying jobs that was more than happy to see my war, any war, continue so that their profit-flow would continue, too.
So, it took me a couple of years to consciously know in my mind that “my war” was actually a scam to make some people rich and to give hundreds of thousands of workers, good jobs. Let me tell you, it is hard to admit to yourself that you were, had. I was told one thing - that I was protecting my country, but that was not the truth. In reality I was protecting a profit flow to those rich Americans whose companies sold arms and equipment to our military and to the militaries of much of the world
Some Veterans figured that out way before me, and they were right at the front of the antiwar protests. Some Veterans I know didn’t figure it out for decades, and then there is another group that have never figured it out at all. They still think we could have won that war if the politicians would have let them. I always wonder, won what? After over a decade of bombing and chemical spraying of Vietnam, there wasn’t much left to win as far as I was concerned.
I do understand how some guys just can’t admit that they had been scammed. Too many of their friends gave their lives, and if it was a scam, those lives were wasted. It is hard to admit that guys you learned to love as brothers died for nothing. I don’t blame those who still hang on to the war they fought. That would be a whole lot easier than knowing what you did in your war was not only a total waste, but also pretty much evil. I won’t get into the killing of over a million innocent civilians in Vietnam, I don’t understand anyone thinking that was OK in any way, but then even 30 years later we have an American Secretary of State saying it was OK to kill 500,000 innocent young children in Iraq when Clinton was President. Really, our wars are evil.
There it is. Some Veterans know even before they leave the combat zone that what they were doing was wrong. Some Veterans catch on in a few years, and others, well it might take decades. But then there are those who never do catch on or refuse to even consider that their government scammed them into going to the other side of the world to kill people just so the American economy could keep plugging along. Also, and worse yet, so that the rich people who finance the political campaigns of both the Republicans and Democrats have enough profits so that those political payments never end, and neither do our wars.
Republished with permission.