Author's Name: Mary Stahl

Title: "From the Homefront"

I remember the Vietnam War coming into our living room every night on TV news and glad it was black & white in those days, no color.  I worked with a lady whose uncle was with Marines in Nam 1963 as advisor, and then in a couple of years it was big news  coming from over there.  My parents and I supported the government and believed what they said about “saving the world for democracy”.  My Dad especially hated to see all the protests going on and said we’d never see Jane Fonda in a movie again, after she went to Hanoi and he never did.  I did not for years.  He had a bumper sticker on garage door window “love it or leave it” as a protest against the flag burnings.  I can also remember watching on TV the Democratic convention in Chicago with my parents and we were cheering on the police who were beating up the rioters and all the tear gas clouds.  And we all hated how the troops were treated when they came home, being spit on, called babykillers etc.  It was not their fault, they were doing their duty as draftees and not fleeing to Canada. And the final scenes when Saigon fell, and helos evacuating people from the Embassy roof.  It was definitely a helo war, they were all over the place, dropping off troops, picking up wounded and shooting at the enemy. So we were a very patriotic family who backed the government. 

Now, looking back, I feel differently about the government.  We didn’t save the world for democracy, but got a lot of good people killed.  I did not know anyone personally who died, but found out in later years at high school reunions that a couple of my classmates did serve over there. We graduated in 1960 before the war had started.  But I still get angry when I think about how our returning troops were treated and glad it’s all different today. They are welcomed home and thanked for their service.  I make it a point to thank any military person  I meet or see wearing a Vietnam cap.  One told me that it was terrible over there, but not a pleasant homecoming either which made it worse treating them like criminals.  His VFW Post has a pic of Jane Fonda in their urinal which my Dad would have enjoyed hearing about.   I found out one of my recent friends is married to an Army helo pilot who served in Nam and earlier this year, we got together with another friend who introduced us to a Nam helo door gunner. They had an interesting conversation together and I listened to what they talked about. They were in many of the same places, but never served together. The gunner told about breaking in new pilots, they would put straps on and wash the helo windows as they were flying along, which freaked some of the pilots out.  They saw it as an initiation and by the pilot’s reaction, they’d know how he’d be when they were under fire. 

All the names of battles are forever etched in my mind and Mom and I watched TV shows which depicted life over there like China Beach or Tour of Duty. Dad died in 1973, so he never saw the war end. It was a big part of our lives for many years and thanks to all who served in any of the wars, but especially that one, because they never heard many words of thanks only insults.