Rangertom’s true tales from the Vietnam War

Veteran’s Day, 1992, Letter to the Editor

by Tom Carpenter, Vietnam Veteran

Please note: The below letter, with some slight revision and without the Table of Contents, was published in several area newspapers, for Veterans Day, 1992. This includes the Carrollton Daily Democrat, the Chillicothe Tribune, and The Brunswicker. Some individual photos, shown in the above collage, were also published. The letter was well received by its readers. This reception encouraged me to write more. I have written several true stories about my tour in Vietnam and the men I served with. This was the letter that got me into writing. I am grateful to my 327th brothers for allowing my writings to be placed within the 327th web site. Some slight revisions were made to the below story.

Veteran’s Day, 1992, Letter to the Editor
Table of Contents:

Veteran’s Day is special to me:
I will visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.:
My Mid West boyhood and background influenced my volunteering for Vietnam:
I thought we were winning the war until I came home:
1985-ten year anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam renews memories:
1986-movie “Platoon” was too real:
Any war is insane:
The Cold War ends:
Support our military and get involved in all levels of our government:
Dear Editor:

Veteran’s Day is approaching – it’s November 11, 1992.

As a Vietnam War veteran, this is a special day for me. At least twice a year, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, I turn my attention to our country’s military and its past wars. I usually try and do something special and out of the ordinary each of these two days. Some years I’ve called a friend or two from my army years or I’ve written letters to the same. One year I marched in the Veteran’s Day parade which was the first time in twenty years I had made
some kind of public demonstration concerning my military past. Other years I’ve gotten together with other veterans and viewed our slides and pictures of Vietnam. Usually I will dig through my clothing drawer and find a special hat and tee shirt with a Vietnam
theme and message and wear this outfit. On occasion I’ve made new friends as they read my clothing and comment that they too were a veteran and/or had served during the Vietnam war. As a minimum, I say a prayer, thanking God that I am alive and that I am blessed to be alive and to have such a wonderful wife and kids. I have not forgotten my many friends who had been killed during the Vietnam war and I pray for their surviving
families.

I will visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.:

This Veteran’s Day is going to be a very special one for me. For years I have wanted to go visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. and this is finally going to happen. 1992 marks the Wall’s tenth year of existence. Vietnam veteran friend Ralph Watts is making the trip with me. Dealing with our past is not always an easy thing to do. It is not easy for me
to write this letter. Each year since 1985, I have started a Veteran’s Day/Memorial Day letter. This year is different … this year I will finish and mail a Veteran’s Day Letter-to-the Editor.

My Mid West boyhood and background influenced my volunteering for Vietnam:

I was well trained for the Vietnam war. My training actually started as a boy growing up in the Mid West. My father and uncles had served in WW2 and Korea. My boyhood heroes were Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Walt Disney, and John Wayne – not to mention a whole bunch of cowboys. My boyhood background helped make the Army easy for me. I loved the outdoors and all it had to offer. At age ten, my father had me training weekly in the Woodman of the World Insurance Company’s Boys of Woodcraft. It was here that I first learned competitive close order drilling and the basics of rifle marksmanship. As an Eagle Boy Scout, I had mastered the skills of rifle marksmanship, patrolling,compass navigation, map reading, first aid, and many other similar outdoor skills. And then there was three years in the Lincoln High School marching band. With this background, I felt it my duty to
support my country in the Vietnam War.

I thought we were winning the war until I came home:

While I was in Vietnam, 1969, I felt good about our military stand and what our country was trying to accomplish there. I also thought we were winning the war. I hadn’t been back to the United States more than 12 hours before I realized that while I was overseas,
my country had become very divided over its involvement in Vietnam. For several years after my return, I was often told by my fellow Americans, who were against the war, that I had been wrong to volunteer for Vietnam and that I had been wrong to have participated in what much of the country thought was an unjust war. I knew this wasn’t true but the
homecoming had an effect on me and similar experiences had similar effects on other Vietnam veterans. For years I talked to no one about the Vietnam experience unless he was also a Vietnam veteran. I became an introvert when it came to my military past.

Ten year anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam renews memories:

In 1985 and 1986, two things happened that begin to cause me to change the way I handled my Vietnam past. In 1985 the news media placed its focus on the 10 year anniversary of the collapse of South Vietnam. The new attention caused a surfacing of memories and emotions I had deeply buried. I was physically and emotionally upset.

1986-movie “Platoon” was too real:

In 1986, Oliver Stone’s movie, “Platoon”, was released. Early Hollywood and John Wayne movies had painted soldiering and war in a different and unreal image. John Wayne’s movies didn’t show the realness of the mud, blood, the heavy weight of combat equipment and weapons, stress, leeches, rats, rain, heat, sun, cold, darkness, sounds, smells, life, and death. All of these things and the intensity of life during any war tattoos its impressions upon one’s soul. “Platoon” was very real to me except for the drug scenes, the village atrocities, and the infighting among its men “Platoon” received the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1986. This both pleased me and horrified me. Too much of “Platoon” was too real. An array of Vietnam movies followed the success of “Platoon” but none have
approached its statement regarding war in general.

Any war is insane:

“Platoon” in 1986 verified the conclusion I came to in 1969 which was that war is mankind’s most insane invention. The message and setting of ”Platoon” spoke for any and all wars whether they were of biblical times, revolutionary times, our bloody Civil War, the World Wars, Korea, Iraq and on and on. War is insane no matter what side wins or which war it is. Years have passed since the Vietnam war ended. We have seen America take a strong military stand many more times through out the world and we have seen its young men
and women pay the price we expect of our military … often with their lives and health and youth. I feel that prior to a person joining the military, they and their parents and spouses and the recruiter should see “Platoon”. Only ten percent of the military end up in the combat arms and then only a small percent of that portion sees any combat but the movie still portrays the military from a different view point than the John Wayne stereotypes.

The Cold War ends:

I think Americans are now seeing the Vietnam war in a different perspective. The ending of the Cold War and the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union showed me that perhaps the 47 year Cold War positions my government took were sound and justified.
History is proving that the tough stand we took in Vietnam helped play a significant role in the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the USSR.

Support our military and get involved in all levels of our government:

As an American, I am grateful for the sacrifice of the veterans who preceded me and who have followed me. There is still much misunderstanding regarding Vietnam and its veterans. Right or wrong, we need to support our military and its veterans. We also need to get involved with our government, at all levels, and its decision and policy making process.
I remember one of the recent presidential candidates saying that in future military positions
and actions, we first commit our country before we commit our men and women. We must learn that war is something to avoid. We must learn to forgive and replace resentment with love and to remember those friends and relatives who gave a portion or all of their lives for their country. These are the messages I hope to bring out for Veteran’s Day, 1992.

Tom Carpenter
Company D, 2/327th Inf. Bn., 1st Bde
101st Airborne Division
RVN Dec 68-Nov 69
[email protected]
Carrollton, Missouri, recognized as an All American City, 2005

copyright 1993, 2005