- Politics and Social Issues
27 "Viet Nam Vets"
In this hub I have mentioned that I would like to locate John Keith Kender. Nick has taken that a step further and posted this hub, http://nick071438.hubpages.com/hub/An-open-letter-to-John-Keith-Kender.
He did this out of the goog of his heart to help us locate John because his mother is ill and she would like to know that her son is at least OK. Though I know she would love to see him again. Please visit Nick's hub. It also has some very important information about Viet Nam and the war. Thank you Nick and all hubbers. Greg
Treatment of Viet Nam Vets.
Viet Nam Vets
While posting this hub I am in hopes that if anyone knows John Keith Kender they might let me know. I just found out he might be located somewhere in Florida. If you do know him, please let him know that his family would love very much for him to come home or at least let them know he is OK. Especially his mother really needs to know.
I enlisted in the Air Force in 1964, during the Viet Nam War. At the time I went in I spent 10 weeks in basic training. We spent 6 weeks for all enlisted airmen. If you weren’t going to tech. school then you stayed in basic training for another 4 weeks, phase 2. I was selected for OJT, (On Job Training) to train as a baker in the food service of our troops so I stayed another 4 weeks. If you were selected for tech. school, then you would finish your basic training at the training center. And what basic training we had never prepared us enough to go to war. Not the war that we were in at that time. But then, I guess you can never be prepared for any war with just basic training and no previous experience with death.
Our troops were sent to war with some, but not enough training to be able to deal with the experiences and atrocities they would encounter. They were trained how to handle and fire guns and other weapons. If they were in any of the Special Forces they received even more concentrated training. But none of them would be prepared for the real life, or should I say death, that they would encounter. That’s something no one can ever train for, but the majority of the boys were just out of school and weren’t old enough to vote but they were old enough to be forced to go over there and kill or be killed. I realize the majority of the soldiers that go over now are just out of school too. The difference is, the boys back then were drafted or forced to go and most were not psychologically ready for what they would face.
Anyway, where I am leading is to the lack of respect that our troops received when they returned after having served “their” country in Viet Nam. They were treated, most of the time, like they were the ones that caused, or were the reason for the war. That is, those who were “lucky” enough to return. I emphasize the word “lucky” this way because there were those who actually wished they had died over there instead of coming back and having to live with what they experienced and the treatment they received upon their return. I lost friends over there, as I know a lot of us did, and I have friends and know of others that have never been the same since they returned from that nightmare. They were exposed to such horrific sights and experiences that they can never erase from their memories, even after almost a half century.
The thing is, these men and women have had to fight some on going battles, psychological and physical, ever since returning to their country. Some of them have never been able to live a “normal” life after the experiences they encountered over there and here upon their return. The movie “First Blood” was an exaggerated example, but I am sure there were some that went to that extreme as for the way “Rambo” was treated on the soil that he had fought to defend.
I am going to use a real life example where no one was hurt, physically that is. The family and friends had their hearts broken because John just never was the same loving person after returning from that war. Not the same man he was before he left.
John, like me, went to the recruiter to enlist because he wanted to serve his country because he felt that was the thing to do. (Or maybe it was just because he had to deal with six sisters at home. Just kidding, he loved his sisters.) Also, John had an uncle that was in the military and was an inspiration for John’s decision to enlist. When John went to the recruiter they should have never accepted him or at least informed him that he would never be expected to be assigned to a tour in Viet Nam. He was an only surviving son to carry on the family name. He had six sisters, but he was an only son. The family knew nothing about this until he was in for awhile. When they found out he was already in Viet Nam. Then the mother was trying to get him back to the States, on those grounds.
Wait a minute. I’m getting ahead of myself. One of the things I wanted to point out is the fact about how much the whole experience changed his life.
John grew up in a loving family with six sisters. Naturally, the sisters would pick on John because he was the only boy. I had that problem too, but only two sisters. But, if anyone else ever picked on John, the sisters would come down on them like a swarm of Banshees. My sisters would do the same thing. That’s the way families are supposed to work.
According to the sisters, John was a bit on the shy side. He would always be involved in family affairs and close to family. He was sometimes bullied at school, but never to the point where he would go and hide or be withdrawn. He did have personal friends and would do things with them. This was all before he went into the Air Force.
John went down at the age of 18 and proudly enlisted into the United States Air Force. He managed the rigors of basic training. He was assigned to an Air Force installation in Rome, NY for a short time and then was shipped over to Viet Nam. He served in the Air Force as a Fireman’s Assistant. His family found out that he was not required to be assigned to a war zone because he was the only surviving son to carry on the family name of Kender. With that his mother went through all the procedures to have him returned home. For some reason, because of the request to have him return home, the Air Force actually discharged him with other than an “honorable discharge”. I feel he got a raw deal on this and I don’t have all the details. I do know he did end up serving his complete tour of duty in Viet Nam and his full 4 years, but I feel it was wrong because he was still treated like an outcast by so many because the experience over there effected him so much in his personality once he returned.
Anyway, the whole idea of this story is to show how the war changed people and it seemed that back then no one could understand why. John did complete his tour of duty over there and when he came back and finished his time they gave him the discharge. He was there long enough to see the atrocities and experience the horrific scenes to bring back what he remembered every day of his life.
John was never the same after his return. He was withdrawn and somewhat of a loner. His sisters said he would get mad and lose his temper very easily after he came home, and it gradually got worse with time. Nothing like the John and loving brother they knew before. He would attend family functions but he gradually withdrew more and more as the years went by. He had a job and lived alone. It came to a time when he would walk everywhere because he got to a point when he just didn’t like to drive anymore. He would walk to the house of his sister’s family on Sundays to watch football or sports. If it was too late or the weather was bad she would give him a ride home. But he would never want to be a bother to anyone.
One day the mother got very sick and was living with one of the sisters. When they took the mother to the hospital the doctor informed them that everyone of interest should be notified because they weren’t sure she would make it very long. She called his work and went to his house. His work said he had quit and there was actually someone else living in the house where he had been living. Just out of the clear blue he up and left. Not letting anyone know he was leaving or where he was going. His sisters searched everywhere for him. The sisters found out that he was living in a motel in Las Vegas at one point. By the time they got there he had left. They have been searching for him ever since.
I am only including the parts about myself in this story because it is in contrast to John’s story and I consider myself one of the few very lucky ones. I was a baker and I was one of the lucky few they did not require to serve time in Viet Nam. Don’t get me wrong, bakers went over to the war too. It’s just that I served my one year, of what was considered “overseas” duty, in Alaska at an isolated remote radar site on the Bering Sea. I had been stationed prior to this at an air base in Louisiana. Both of the sergeants that trained me and three of the airmen I had trained all were assigned to a tour in Viet Nam. I lost contact with them and never found out what happened to any of them. I know that when my time was up I received my discharge while in Alaska. They were cutting back on the military. I still had six months left of my four year responsibility. They gave me a choice to either re-enlist or accept an early out. Since I already had a wife and two baby girls, I accepted the early out.
I’m getting off track again. What I am trying to point out is the way our soldiers were treated then. I didn’t have any nightmares or wake up in cold sweats or have to re-live some of the horrible memories in the middle of the day that a lot of our returning soldiers brought home with them. I do know that when someone asked if I had been in the war and I would proudly reply yes, I could feel the snub and see the nose go up in the air. No matter what the soldiers did over there, there were a lot of, actually too many, people that would never consider those soldiers as heroes. In my mind, they were all heroes. Really, those soldiers didn’t expect to be treated like heroes, they could have, and should have, at least received some respect upon returning home to the country and the people they fought for.
I feel that a lot of that was due to the protests and riots here at home causing the lack of acceptance and respect of those soldiers. And we are seeing that these days too. Although today, people are accepting and supporting our soldiers in a completely different manner. Don’t get me wrong, I support our troops 100%. It’s just the treatment they get after they serve their time that is what I am complaining about. Especially the treatment they received during and after the Viet Nam era. When someone finds out now that I am a Veteran, they actually thank me for the time I gave for “our” country. That’s a lot more than I ever received back then. Why couldn’t they have been that way back then?
I guess maybe I have rambled enough. It’s just that even today, people that I have talked to just don’t recall how hard it was on the vets back then unless they themselves were vets. If you took the time to read this, thank you and please comment below.