Vietnam at 40

A sports-based coincidence leads the author to reevaluate the Vietnam war and the changing social norms surrounding it.

Vietnam at 40

 I went to a Cincinnati Reds game about a week ago with my younger brother, enjoying some big hits and the rare win for the hometown sluggers, but something that really stuck out to me happened before the first pitch was even thrown.

Just before the announcer was going to lead the stadium through the Pledge of Allegance he introduced an older man in a big black jacket adorned with the words that he was a Vietnam vet stitched proudly into the leather. When the man stood up and took off his hat the entire stadium erupted with cheers.

I didn’t think too much of it at the time. It wasn’t until the next day that the significance of this event was made clear to me. The game that had been played the day before was on the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon.

The war in Vietnam was a defining chapter in American history as anti-war sentiments and peace movements became more popular than supporting American troops overseas, and popular culture reflected this, especially movies.

If you were to look at some of the films made about Vietnam directly after the wars end in the late 70’s and throughout the 1980’s the general tone was that the war was bad. During these years films like Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and The Deer Hunter all showed the war in a completely new and degrading light. Much differently than the films that came out after World War II.

But these days, it seems that the view on the war in Vietnam and war in general has changed dramatically as year after year more films come out that praise American service men who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.

This kind of came as a shock to me that public opinion on an issue of this size and importance can change so much without anything about it changing. And the more I thought about the more I realized just how much it’s changed.

Two years ago, the moving replica of the Vietnam war memorial, with the names of all the veterans who perished in the war, came to Cincinnati and drawed in hundreds of people to visit and pay tribute to it. Now if this had happened in the 70’s it may have been more likely a target of protest than of respect.

Sign on Glenway Ave that honors Elder graduates who died serving the US in Vietnam has a changeable lower sign to honor a different alum each month.
Mr Rogers
Sign on Glenway Ave that honors Elder graduates who died serving the US in Vietnam has a changeable lower sign to honor a different alum each month.

And last fall, Elder dedicated the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Highway, which is a stretch of Glenway Avenue that is dedicated to Vietnam vets. The school also hung shadow boxes in the hallway between the main building and the north wing which hold the pictures and names of eleven fellow Panthers who perished in the war all those years ago.

But the more that I’ve thought about all that’s changed regards to America’s feelings towards the Vietnam war, the more I’ve thought how America has changed in other ways as well. After all this time; after the fall of communism, the wars in the middle east, and the war on terror, time itself may have changed the viewpoint of many Americans on our own armed services and, in turn, our view of war.

In the end, we as Americans have become much more respectful and grateful to our service men and women, with this respect for the men and women overseas outweighs any anger that we hold with the leaders of our nation for their executive decisions during the war, and that’s a good thing. The soldiers, for the most part, did what they had to do and shouldn’t have received the brute force of America’s anger back in the 70’s.

Today our views have changed and we can all show our respect for those men and women who sacrifice so much for us stateside.

If you want to know anymore about the war in Vietnam watch the video linked at the top of this story and uploaded by crashcourse on the issue.