President Obama at the Vietnam War Memorial. White House Photo
“It’s another opportunity to say to our Vietnam veterans what we should have been saying from the beginning: You did your job. You served with honor. You made us proud. You came home and you helped build the America that we love and that we cherish. So here today, it must be said -- you have earned your place among the greatest generations,” Obama said.
Noting that some consider Vietnam a “scar” on our country, Obama said: “As any wound heals, the tissue around it becomes tougher, becomes stronger than before. And in this sense, finally, we might begin to see the true legacy of Vietnam. Because of Vietnam and our veterans, we now use American power smarter, we honor our military more, we take care of our veterans better.”
That better care is evidenced by an Associated Press report that 45 percent of returning vets of Afghanistan and Iraq are seeking compensation from service-related injuries. Claims are up due to improved treatment of battlefield wounds (e.g., 95 percent of troops wounded survive wounds that would have been once fatal) and the rise in the number of post-traumatic stress disorder cases. There’s also greater outreach from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, reported the AP.
Obama also said a great lesson of Vietnam is that when “America sends our sons and daughters into harm’s way, we will always give them a clear mission; we will always give them a sound strategy.”
“Let’s resolve that in our democracy we can debate and disagree -- even in a time of war. But let us never use patriotism as a political sword. Patriots can support a war; patriots can oppose a war. And whatever our view, let us always stand united in support of our troops, who we placed in harm's way. That is our solemn obligation.”
Kudos go to the commander-in-chief.