Vietnam veterans ‘still needed’ in their communities

Published 2:12 pm Monday, March 27, 2023

Vietnam has been described as the most misrepresented, misreported and misunderstood war the United States has ever been involved in.

“I’d like to add it was the most misinterfered with and mismanaged by the politicians,” said retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Theodore Thompson, who served in Vietnam from October 1970-71.

Thompson was the guest speaker Saturday during the Mayor’s Armed Forces Commission’s National Vietnam War Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Park.

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More than 2.7 million Americans served in the Vietnam war — 2,709,918, to be precise.

Thompson said that number represents 9.7 percent of his generation.

“Twenty-five percent of us were draftees,” Thompson said. “Many who volunteered didn’t have a choice in which branch they served.”

More than 58,000 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam and 30 percent of those were draftees.

Thompson said 997 died their first day in Vietnam and 1,582 are still missing.

“I remember what those first two weeks were like ­— scared ‘sugar honey iced tea-less,’ ” Thompson said with a laugh. “I was lucky.”

He said when he returned, several of his comrades were diagnosed with PTSD.

“We talked and we talked and we talked,” he said. “We shared stories — some outlandish — and all that talking provided a group therapy. If anyone is having problems with PTSD, seek help.”

Thompson said the soldiers who fought in Vietnam are likely now hard of hearing, don’t see well and “have a hitch in our giddy-up.”

“No matter what our kids and the new generation think about us, we are awesome,” he said. “Our lives are living proof — we were born to mothers who smoked and drank, we didn’t grow up in homes that were child-proofed, we rode our bikes without helmets, we rode in cars with no car seats or seat belts or airbags, we didn’t have video games and 150 channels, we didn’t have personal computers or cell phones. We had freedom, we had success, responsibility and we learned how to deal with it all. This generation has produced some of the greatest risk-takers, problem-solvers and inventors ever.”

He said Vietnam veterans were taught standards during their military training, and kept to those standards.

“We are still active in the community and hold our elected leaders accountable,” he said. “We’re still needed.”