Blast from the Past – Vietnam – Marilyn Kortemeier

Everyone knows all about the news footage that was shot by the reporters covering the war in Viet Nam.  We used to see those over our dinner tables every night.  They also know about the official protests in every large city in America.  But what they don’t know about it about how it divided families.  This often also happened over the dinner table.  I remember my father and my brother sitting opposite each other and having discussions about the war.  For my father, the government was always right.  The government could do no wrong.  For my brother it was always the opposite, the government was always wrong, it couldn’t do anything right.  I tended to side with my father.  My little brother sided with my mother.  How on earth it did not turn into screaming matches, I will never know.  But I do remember one night when my older brother stated unequicacally ​”If I get drafted, I’m taking off for Canada.”  My father said, “If you do that, don’t ever come home.”  That was the way a lot of families were.  The sons had very definite opinions against the war and the father’s had very definite opinions for.  And when the sons did get their draft notices they took off in the middle of the night for Canada.  Fathers would do a lot of things to let their sons know that they were ashamed of the boys.  And the families would not see their 18 year old son again.  For my family, you might say that we lucked out.  My brother was legally blind without his glasses, so he flunked his physical.  They put him down as 4F.  That meant that they would only take him if they had to look under the barrel.  For myself, I joined the Navy.  Women who were not nurses were not allowed in the country at the time.  So I worked supporting our sailors and marines stateside here.  And, surprisingly, my older brother never showed my anything but respect for my decision.  I did hear, from time to time, about the boys who were in Canada.  They were happy with Canada, but miserable to be separated from their families.  When the war was over, and clemency was declared for them, most were happy to try to return home and be reunited with their families.  But the important events in the lives of families that they had missed were gone forever.  I mean events such as weddings and funerals, etc.  So in the end it was rather more sad than happy.
© Marilyn Kortemeier

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