An Open Letter to the House ArmedServices Committee

PhillipJennings – October 12, 2010

Withrespect to the Viet Nam War Commemorative event(s), perhaps I’m missingsomething. Is it supposed to be secret? A big surprise forthose Viet Nam Vets still alive when someone in DC gets around to planning andannouncing it? I have yet to find a Viet Vet that has any knowledge ofthe commemorative possibility.

A big surprise is not a good idea. Beginning with the unfortunate statisticaldata which suggests that by 2015, there might be precious few Viet Nam Vetsaround to enjoy the ceremony.

Unlike the fighting men of other U.S. wars (with the possibleexception of Korea War Vets) the Viet Nam Vet has not lived bathed in glory andpraise. He has lived for the most part in a shadowlandof doubt and suspicion. It would be disingenuous to not recognize that themega-media and academic portrayal of the Viet Nam War as somehow immoral or’wrong,’ tainted the reputation of the Viet Nam Veterans. Even forgetting for themoment that the media was woefully mistaken, it is the celebration of the vetsservice to their country which is to be commemorated, not an opinion about thewar.

Ata minimum, I would hope that the Committee shed some light on theCommemoration. It is to be hoped that the process is headed by a strongsupporter of the commemoration. That there is a strong and active advisoryboard composed of Admirals and Generals who know how to get things done, knowabout the war, and care deeply for their fellow veterans. Certainly thecommemoration should begin no later than 2013, the anniversary of sendingAmerican advisors to Viet Nam by President Kennedy, the first publiccommitment of American troops.

I cannot suggest an appropriate budget for the events. I have heard that the events commemorating just the Normandy landings cost around $35 million.Once a budget is established and the events are made public, I believe that theprivate sector in Americawill give generously, even in these tough times, to support the effort. Butthat cannot happen until something happens in Washington. And it will necessitate astrong, committed leader of the overall effort to make it all happen.

Why the secrecy? Why not a strong leader and spokesman? What is the delay ingetting started? Given some of their treatment in the past, you might forgivethe Viet Nam Veterans for being suspicious about the lack of urgency andgovernment commitment to the Commemoration.

I think it was Oscar Wilde who said (after a stint in an English prison):””If this is the way Queen Victoriatreats her prisoners, then she doesn’t deserve to have any.” Sometimes the Viet Nam Veterans must think–well, you know what they mustthink.

Phillip Jennings served in Vietnam withthe United StatesMarine Corps, flying helicopters, and in Laos as a pilot for Air America. He isthe author of the critically acclaimed comic novels “Nam-A-Rama“and “Goodbye Mexico“,and won the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society first prize for fiction with hisshort story, “Train Wreck in a Small Town.” A successfulentrepreneur, he is currently CEO of Molecular Resonance Corporation, which isdeveloping technology to detect and disarm Improvised Explosive Devices. Helives with his family near Seattle, Washington.


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