Friday, January 27, 2012

"Peace in Vietnam" 39th Anniversary: Reconciling the Memories

This date pops up once a year.  I reflect and comment to many of my patients about the significance of the date, usually feeling a sense of relief.  Then, I reflect on the aftermath of the "Peace Accords" as noted below.  Then I think again of twenty West Point classmates from the Class of 1968 who died as a result of the Vietnam "Conflict", honored and forever remembered on The Wall, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial. And I feel the sadness and wonder if their loss and the whole Vietnam experience has been reconciled in the individual and the national brain of those touched by the "Vietnam era".
Classmates wrote about Vietnam experiences and the fallen as part of Both Sides of the Wall,  Reflections of the West Point Class of 1968 , written as part of our 40th reunion celebration.  Sandy Cohn wrote in "The class of 1968 Remembers Posterity is Their Ally" of gathering at The Wall: 
"...perhaps it is a combination of pride, grief, and bitterness that makes the memories so emotionally draining, that makes the inanimate Wall so animate. ... We knew these things, and yet how many among us- having now lived long enough to know regret- regret having served in Vietnam ?
Words were spoken (at the Wall), but symbol surpassed ritual as pride mixed with pain....
They knew they might die young.  They assumed they would be remembered by loved ones.  They never dreamed, amid the divisiveness and bitterness of the times in which they died, that their nation would one day immortalize them on a gray granite wall in Washington....Posterity is their ally."
In reference to the fallen, Dutch Hostler wrote in "Dedicating the Wall" :
  " In stoic silence stood that dour day upon a matted, misty mourning national "front lawn", and heard the coursing lofty words...muttered, uttered, whispered, spake and shouted us...about us...and them...and us...while silent echoes answered all.  And saw the yawning black and granite gash that tallied up the cost.  A void that bleeds a list of names...of lives untimely lost.
   An off'ring scorned...but no less nobly put than those that stand in stone at Bunker Hill, Bastogne, Inchon, the Arizona...sites most intimately muted lips...and them alone.    
   And dry was I in throat and eye, the words well meant caroming near...but missed the mark.
   Weeks later, the hoopla, din and crowds dispersed, I went alone to find again a friend I'd lost, last seen in jungles green a half a world away.  And he, the Wall and I...we wept." 

From Wikipedia:  "On 15 January 1973, Nixon announced a suspension of offensive actions against North Vietnam. Kissinger and Tho met again on 23 January and signed off on a treaty that was basically identical to the draft of three months earlier. The agreement was signed by the leaders of the official delegations on 27 January at the Majestic Hotel in Paris.
The Paris Peace Accords had little practical effect on the conflict, and were routinely flouted mainly by the North Vietnamese, as well as the Saigon government, which enlarged the area under its control in 1973. North Vietnamese military forces gradually moved through the southern provinces and two years later were in position to capture Saigon.
Nixon had secretly promised Thieu that he would use airpower to support the Saigon government should it be necessary. During his confirmation hearings in June 1973, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger was sharply criticized by some Senators after he stated that he would recommend resumption of U.S. bombing in North Vietnam if North Vietnam launched a major offensive against South Vietnam. However, Nixon was driven from office due to the Watergate scandal in 1974 and when the North Vietnamese did begin their final offensive early in 1975, the United States Congress refused to appropriate the funds needed by the South Vietnamese, who collapsed completely. Thieu resigned, accusing the U.S. of betrayal in a TV and radio address:
"At the time of the peace agreement the United States agreed to replace equipment on a one-by-one basis. But the United States did not keep its word. Is an American's word reliable these days? The United States did not keep its promise to help us fight for freedom and it was in the same fight that the United States lost 50,000 of its young men."[12]
The North Vietnamese entered Saigon on April 30. Schlesinger had announced early in the morning of 29 April 1975 the evacuation from Saigon by helicopter of the last U.S. diplomatic, military, and civilian personnel."


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