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Give Donations to Vietnam Veterans

Updated on September 11, 2010

During the 60s, the efforts of Vietnam soldiers were belittled, turning veterans into social outcasts upon their return home.

Even today there is a poor perception of the value of their bravery and minimal government help. It’s heartbreaking to realize that the American heroes that risked their lives to fight in one of the most horrendous wars of the twentieth century haven’t been redeemed.

Some claim that times have changed citing a statistic that 87% of Americans hold Vietnam vets in high esteem. This statement was made by Lt. Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey to the veterans that gathered together at "The Wall" on Memorial Day 1993. Since there is no study or survey to support this figure, its authenticity is questionable.

Regardless, it is a vocal minority that finds every opportunity to slam veterans. Even after all these years. Actor Val Kilmer’s vicious remarks sum up the negative attitudes well.

“A guy who’s lived through the horror of Vietnam has not spent his life preparing his mind for it. He’s some punk. Most guys were borderline criminal or poor, and that’s why they got sent to Vietnam. It was all the poor, wretched kids who got beat up by their dads, guys who didn’t get on the football team, couldn’t finagle a scholarship. They didn’t have the emotional equipment to handle that experience.”

Veteran looks for the names of old friends.
Veteran looks for the names of old friends.

The Poor Flunkies

Soldiers from backwood towns and poor families filled the ranks, at least according to Hollywood. This was successfully portrayed in the 1986 film Platoon. Charlie Sheen’s character Chris was seen as a crusader because he felt it was unfair that only the undesirables in society fought in the war. His comrade King noted that only a rich person had the luxury to think that way.

Although they may have been poor the education level was high for the army: 79% had a high school education or better. These were the best educated forces ever sent into combat.

Cancer from Agent Orange

Twenty million gallons of Agent Orange, which contained carcinogenic chemicals, were sprayed on the jungles of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand to clear the foliage. The enemy knew this terrain well, but the U.S. troops found it tough to adapt to, so in effect the U.S. military poisoned their own soldiers.

Even brief exposure to Agent Orange can cause cancers to develop decades later. A good example is the story of Jim McKasson. Nearly 40 years after, McKasson is battling highly malignant prostate cancer that may take his life.

A study found that, California veterans exposed to Agent Orange developed prostate cancer at double the rate of soldiers that weren’t. Among the 6,214 test subjects exposed to Agent Orange, 239 were diagnosed with cancer, compared to only 124 out of 6,930 unexposed men.

Your Donation Can Make a Difference

There are a number of non-profit organizations you can donate to in order to make the lives of veterans a little brighter. You can give everything from unwanted items from around the house, cash, or a used car.

Vietnam Veterans of America
Accept donations of household items and clothing to fund efforts to improve the lives of veterans. Car donation program accepts all vehicles, running or non-running.

DAV – Disabled American Veterans
Organization of former soldiers who are focused on building better lives for disabled vets.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
Conceived to bring honor and recognition to the men and women that sacrificed their lives in the service. Site supports online donations.

One of the best things you can do is show respect the vets you some in contact with, even if they are a little rough around the edges.

If you know someone who served in Vietnam, surprise that person with a hot coffee or a nice lunch. Don’t make it out like you are showing pity. If asked about your intentions simply state that you appreciate what they did for the country and are expressing your gratitude.

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