The story behind this year’s parade theme. In 1945, U.S. President Harry Truman broke the news and declared an Allied victory in World War II after six years of war. Celebrations were held across the world. People crowded into New York’s Times Square to rejoice; a large ticker tape parade hailed the conquering heroes as 13,000 members of the 82nd Airborne Division marched up Fifth Avenue. Victory parades were held at cities and towns across the country to honor the returning veterans and recognize the sacrifices they had made.
Vietnam veterans, however, had an entirely different homecoming, due in no small part to the large segment of the American population who were opposed to U.S. involvement in South Vietnam. American soldiers returned home to a country torn apart by debate over the war. There were no victory parades or welcome-home rallies. As many Vietnam vets will testify, they came back to a society that did not seem to care about them, or that seemed to sometimes view them with distrust and even anger – or just indifference. Many Vietnam veterans tell stories of people seemingly uncomfortable around them, and who did not appear interested in hearing about their wartime experiences.
“Men who fought in World War II or Korea might be just as haunted by what they had personally seen and done in combat,” said Arnold R. Isaacs in “Vietnam Shadows: The War, Its Ghosts, and Its Legacy.” “But they did not come home, as the Vietnam vets did, to a country torn and full of doubt about why those wars were fought and whether they had been worthwhile. Nor did they return as symbols of a great national failure.”
vietnam-vetsOur Vietnam veterans are amongst the largest number of veterans in our country today. Some veterans returned from Vietnam with severe physical disabilities or emotional problem. The Vietnam War had a much higher ratio of wounded to killed soldiers than any previous war; many returned with serious, crippling injuries, such as amputated limbs and paralysis. Many suffered from depression, guilt, flashbacks, nightmares, mood swings, angry outbursts, anxiety and paranoia. Doctors eventually gave this condition a name: Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS), and recognized it as a real psychological illness. Studies have estimated that as many as 800,000 Vietnam veterans suffered from PTSS; many decided to end their own lives. Some experts believe that the number of veterans who committed suicide after returning home from Vietnam was at least as great as the 58,000 Americans who died in the war.
The Phoenix Veterans Day Parade committee wanted to help transfer the negative sentiment that once prevailed to a more positive one this year, which is why they came up with the theme of “Welcome Home Vietnam Heroes.” The majority of our Vietnam veterans were drafted, went to a war that lost its support and funding, and – at the average age of 19 – these veterans became trapped in the middle. It’s only appropriate that, in honoring them this year, we try to improve upon the wrongdoings of our past.
We hope you will join us at the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade this Friday, November 11, to partner with us in saying “Welcome Home Vietnam Heroes” – and give them the parade they never had.