For many who served in this southern Asia land, it may have felt like defeat. Like America turned its tail and ran. Rebekah Sanderlin, the wife of a U.S. Army vet said, "There are a lot of veterans who are grappling with: ‘Was it worth it? Were all of our sacrifices wasted?’" Her husband was deployed to Afghanistan up to seven times!
The costs of trying to salvage peace in that country were high. More than 2,300 Americans were killed and 20,000 wounded in the 20-year war. It’s estimated the U.S. spent around $2.26 trillion in the Afghani war for freedom. Who can even count that high?
A Pew Research survey was conducted August 23-29 – before all American troops had left Afghanistan. At that time, apparently 52% of military veterans said the U.S. decision to withdraw troops from the country was the right one. Some 47% disagreed.
I’m old enough to remember Vietnam. In fact, I was drafted during that conflict. But I chose to enlist—and avoided the service branches sending ground troops to Vietnam. The Army and Marines who served saw the most action and the most fatalities.
More than 58,000 American service members died in Vietnam. More than 150,000 were wounded. Many men who served in Vietnam and survived witnessed unspeakable horrors.
Returning home had its own trauma. The website history.com cites the example of Steven A. Wowwk, an infantryman in the Army’s First Cavalry Division. He was sent to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, in early January 1969. By June, Wowwk had to receive advanced care.
While en route to the hospital by bus and strapped to a gurney, Wowwk and other wounded servicemen gazed out the window.They could see civilians stop to watch the small convoy of hospital-bound vehicles. Said Wowwk “I remember feeling like, what could I do to acknowledge them, and I just gave the peace signal.” He was given the middle finger in return.
Wowwk and his returning mates had invectives hurled their way. Naval officer Ford Cole remembers being spit on. Returning Vietnam vets were not met with celebratory fanfare, and few benefits, unlike an earlier generation.
Times have changed. A different American spirit emerged after the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Then, we witnessed flag-waving, yellow-ribbon cultural mobilization, and the grand celebrations. Vietnam vets were stunned. There were actually people cheering the return of soldiers.
Post 9/11, we’ve witnessed other patriotic gestures. Most notably, people saying, “Thank you for your service” to ALL who have served. American flags and pins are more noticeable.
The theme for Veterans Day 2021 is: “Honoring All Who Served.” All veterans make a sacrifice to serve their country, whether physically, emotionally, or by being away from their loved ones and missing important life moments. We can honor our military personnel by showing appreciation for their service and praying for their safety and for their families.
Mr. Wowwk is now 100 percent disabled from his Vietnam wounds. He appreciates the words of thanks he gets. But he also adds, “Deeds need to be done in addition to words.”
Sounds almost scriptural. James 2:14 reads, “Another person might say, 'You have faith, but I do good things.' Show me your faith apart from the good things you do. I will show you my faith by the good things I do.” (GWT)
Thankfully, many benefits for vets have been added since the days of Vietnam. Once again we see in this, actions do speak louder than words.
Wowwk asks, “What are you doing in addition to saying ‘thank you’?”
He asks a good question. Worth reflecting on this upcoming Veterans Day.
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You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?
For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com
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