As an Army Vietnam veteran, I read Bruce Dancis’ article about his anti-war activities during the ’60s (“No regrets that I fought Vietnam War machine”; Forum, Nov. 30), and I thought about all those who fought in the war despite the misgivings some of them may have had. While the article has merit relative to questionable political and military decisions made in the conduct of the Vietnam War, there is no questioning the valor of the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who did the fighting. Some Americans protested World War II, the “just” war, as well. Those protesters also had strong beliefs. That does not mean they were “right” or “wrong”; that was just their opinion.
While the all-volunteer military has made the debate moot for now, I agree with Dancis that if there were a major conflict calling for reinstatement of the draft, student deferments should be eliminated. It’s unfair that those who cannot afford college to bear the brunt of fighting and dying; it should be borne equally by all fit young men and women.
Dancis professes, 50 years later, to be impressed with the valor of the Americans who fought in the war. I was there and saw it firsthand. I wonder how he felt about their valor 50 years ago; at 18 he was trying to persuade other privileged young men to refuse student deferment and refuse induction.
Most young men bellied up to the bar and took their chances. Some enlisted in the Air Force or Navy to avoid the combat-prone Army and Marines. Also, how does one explain the young men who were desperate to enlist and fight in Vietnam despite being unable to qualify physically? Were they just patriotic? Lastly, it was not just the government who treated vets poorly; Dancis should have seen anti-war protesters “shabbily” treating veterans at the San Francisco airport as they returned from Vietnam.
In life, every action has consequences. When Dancis and others refused to answer the draft, other young men filled those slots. While some may not have understood this, it is nonetheless true.
Elliott Loyd, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, lives in Sacramento. He served a 14-month tour of duty, from Dec. 13, 1968, to Feb. 17, 1970, in Vietnam.