Maybe it’s time to revisit subject of Vietnam

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ documentary on Vietnam.

Vietnam. Depending on your age and where you were during the 1960s, that name could bring back bad memories or thoughts of what happened and why, and why it has taken so long for people to get over the war that lasted so long.

As person born in the ’50s and raised in the ’60s, I remember a good bit about the war and watching it unfold in television.

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I was in the first Vietnam draft lottery in 1970, and went through my pre-induction physical, which I failed with the same malady I have now — high blood pressure.

I was to undergo a re-examination six months later, but was never called, because I had a relatively high number and the military had reached its quota. I was subsequently deferred.

Over the years, I’ve wondered what would have  happened had I passed my physical.

One thing I would not have done was what so many young men from Baton Rouge who went to the Customs House in New Orleans and passed their physicals did. I would not have run to the nearby Navy recruiter and signed up. Being all of 19 years old, I would have gone home and talked with my parents first.

Both of them had been in World War II. My father, as I have written in the past, was a combat medic. Mother was a nurse with the French Army. Both of them had seen what bullets can do to the body.

In the end, I probably would have joined either the Navy or the Coast Guard, and joining either would not have kept me from going to Vietnam; my decision would have been based on the letters I received from two friends who were in the Army in Vietnam and in combat.

One thing that has always puzzled me was why we got into Vietnam in the first place. I know from history one reason was to stop what politicians feared was the spread of Communism in the world, but Vietnam never seemed like a threat to the U.S., and unlike World War II, the homeland was never attacked. That is what makes this war strange. It divided the nation then and it set the roots for the distrust of government we have today, and only now that we can come to grips with an undeclared war that was fought in the faraway place, and for reasons, in the end, no one can completely explain.

I’ve known a lot of Vietnam vets over the years, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for them, and I hope in some ways the Ken Burns documentary can at least begin some dialogue over the war and bring us back together.

Vietnam for many, not just vets, has been a subject best left in the closet with the other bad memories. Maybe it’s time to start talking about it. We’ve let it go for too long.

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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