Our Opinion: Remembering Vietnam on Memorial Day

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The Vietnam War was raging on Memorial Day of 1969, 50 years ago. A total of 549,000 American troops were stationed there that year, the highest number of any year in the war. In 1969, 11,619 of them were killed, a casualty total second only to 1968.

Today, Memorial Day, those soldiers are remembered, along with all of those who died in military service to America.

During the course of the long and controversial Vietnam War, 58,193 Americans were killed, 1,323 from Massachusetts — and 27 from Berkshire County. On March 29, National Vietnam War Veterans Day, those 27 were remembered in a ceremony at Park Square. Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer recalled that her father was stationed in Thailand during the war and her mother wore a bracelet containing the name of a soldier, Marine Corps Capt. Francis Visconti, which was a customary practice then. The mayor wore that silver bracelet at the ceremony.

Ceremonies honoring Vietnam veterans are particularly poignant because they did not receive the recognition due to them at the time because of the growing unpopularity of the war. That was the fault of the politicians, the public and the military brass, not the soldiers, but the honors that came quickly to the veterans of World War I and World War II, and to a lesser extent veterans of the Korean conflict, came slowly and grudgingly to veterans who served in Vietnam.

The lesson of Vietnam that wars should not be fought for political reasons that are hidden from the public was forgotten when the U.S. embarked upon another doomed war, this one in Iraq, under false pretenses. Just under 4,500 American soldiers died in Iraq, and nearly 2,400 soldiers have died in the war in Afghanistan, America's longest war. The two most recent deaths of U.S. soldiers there occurred in March as a war that has long since outlived its post-9/11 mission drags on.

The Vietnam and Iraq wars have taught or should have taught Americans to be alarmed when their presidents begin saber-rattling. President Trump, who scuttled a peace agreement with Iran for no apparent reason other than President Obama signed it, has been alternately making threatening overtures to Iran and backing off them. The president, who received a medical deferment from the Vietnam draft because of bone spurs, was accused last week by Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, a military veteran, of faking a disability to avoid fighting overseas. While we can't speak to the legitimacy of the young Mr. Trump's issues with his feet, it can be said that someone who never fought in a war and whose children never fought in a war should not be quick to start a war that will cost the lives of young American men and women.

As we remember today those who fought and died in service to America, we urge all Americans to resolve never again to be bullied or conned into supporting ill-conceived and unnecessary wars by flag-hugging faux patriots in high political office.

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