Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Vets versus the meme 

Straight from the horse's mouth:
Browning, 56, of Paradise, Calif., and Weatherhead, 57, of Elk Grove, Calif., are grandfathers. They first flew combat missions in Vietnam, before most of the soldiers in the current Army were born. They and others their age are here with the National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division, which includes some of the oldest soldiers to serve in combat for the modern U.S. Army. Few soldiers or officers in the military, other than the service's top generals, are as old.

If there are parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, these graying soldiers and the other Vietnam veterans serving here offer a unique perspective. They say they are more optimistic this time: They see a clearer mission than in Vietnam, a more supportive public back home and an Iraqi population that seems to be growing friendlier toward Americans.

"In Vietnam, I don't think the local population ever understood that we were just there to help them," says Chief Warrant Officer James Miles, 57, of Sioux Falls, S.D., who flew UH-1H Hueys in Vietnam from February 1969 to February 1970. And the Vietcong and North Vietnamese were a tougher, more tenacious enemy, he says. Instead of setting off bombs outside the base, they'd be inside.

"I knew we were going to lose Vietnam the day I walked off the plane," says Miles, who returned home this month after nearly a year in Iraq. Not this time. "There's no doubt in my mind that this was the right thing to do," he says.
And so "USA Today" performs a valuable public service for the USA today: "Vietnam vets in Iraq see 'entirely different war'" ? read the whole thing. It won't kill off the meme, because it's far too useful for the ideological descendants of those who turned Vietnam into "Vietnam", but it might give sensible people a pause.


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