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The Impact of the Vietnam War on the United State

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  • Pages: 5
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  • Category: Honor

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American casualties were increasing and everyone knew it. The economy was also hurting as the U.S. continued to spend astronomical amounts of money on war efforts. “By the end of 1967, nearly half a million American soldiers were serving in Vietnam. Approximately fifteen thousand Americans had been killed and more than one hundred thousand wounded. By then, involvement in the Vietnam War was costing the United States forty thousand dollars a minute” (McCormick).

With the public disapproval of Johnson and the government soaring, along with the anti war movement still at large, it seemed as though Johnson had little support left. And later, after many New Hampshire primary voters rallied behind the anti-war Democrat Eugene McCarthy, Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection. Vice President Hubert Humphrey accepted the Democratic nomination in August in Chicago, and thousands of anti-war demonstrators showed up outside the convention building. Humphrey lost the 1968 presidential election to Richard Nixon, who promised in his campaign to restore “law and order.”

While Nixon was in office, his war policies divided the nation further however. In December 1969, the government instituted the first U.S. draft lottery since World War II, inciting a vast amount of controversy and causing many young men to flee to Canada. Tensions ran higher than ever, spurred on by mass demonstrations and incidents of official violence such those at Kent State in May 1970, when National Guard troops shot into a group of protesters demonstrating against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. Four students were killed by the gunfire. The publication of the first Pentagon Papers in mid-1971 revealed previously confidential details about the war’s conduct and details causing more and more Americans to question the U.S. government and military. Finally, in response to the ever-increasing protests, and a strong anti war mandate, Nixon announced the effective end to U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia in January 1973.

This end, so longingly hoped for by so many Americans had finally come. The efforts of protestors and anti war groups had influenced a nation. The media had brought the all-too-real events and tragedies of war to every American’s doorstep and the nation had finally cried out in exasperation, “ENOUGH.” This terrible war, from its earliest beginnings, plagued America for 19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks, and 1 day. Over 58,000 men lost their lives, with more than 300,000 wounded. In all, the total loss of soldiers from all sides climbed to over 1.4 million. A total of over 500,000 civilians were also killed in Vietnam, an unsettling fact that strained every American’s emotions. In one of the nastiest, most unnecessary wars in our history, the losses and consequences were magnificent. “The Defense Department reported that the overall cost of the Vietnam War was $173 billion (equivalent to $770 billion in 2003 dollars). Veteran’s benefits and interest would add another $250 billion ($1 Trillion in 2003 dollars)” (The Vietnam War). The U.S. economy suffered immensely from the involvement in the Vietnam War.

The citizens of the United States were the ones who suffered the most from the war. I say the citizens because many “soldiers” who were sent unwillingly, halfway across the world to fight in an unknown, unfriendly, uninviting jungle, were not actually soldiers at all. They were normal people; boys, who were thrust into a uniform and a helmet and thrown an M-16. They were someone’s neighbor; someone’s friend; someone’s loved one. Soldiers came home, but their souls did not. They were never “really” back. Their focus seemed to drift, and recount the horrors of what they had experienced. The war’s horrors had left them hallowed.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) rocked a large majority of veterans of Vietnam. Many soldiers were severely affected by various psychological problems and it made their daily life nearly impossible and at times unbearable. Suicide rates rose among veterans after the war and many veterans developed other problems including substance abuse. The American people were also changed after the war. People were shocked by how their government had deceived them at times and what their government was willing to do to other human beings. A weariness of the government and the military had fostered in the country and it left the nation more cautious and untrusting of when their leaders addressed them. The lives of Americans were quite different than before the war. The culture in the United States had changed.

The Vietnam War was a regrettable failure as it punished the United States and disrupted its culture, leaving an unmistakable scar. The soldiers who were sent to Vietnam were changed when they came back, but so were the individuals waiting to receive them back home. Everyone saw the truths behind this mistake of a war and the dissatisfaction of the entire nation was unmistakable. A total of 2.7 million American soldiers served in Vietnam. Many did not make the return trip home alive. And for those “lucky” enough to escape Vietnam, they would never escape the haunting memories it cursed them with. The haunting memories still remained.

Today, two black granite walls, measuring 246.75 feet in length, holding 58,272 names, rest in Washington D.C. They honor those who lost their lives fighting in Vietnam, and those who never came back home. The memorial sees over four million visitors a year and collects small offerings brought by individuals with connections to those listed on the wall. Offerings include flowers, small flags, letters, trinkets, and even a medal of honor. This memorial demonstrates the affect that Vietnam had on America. It shows how an entire nation was impacted and continues to be impacted. Standing in front of the immense wall and gazing upon the names, seemingly infinite in number, conveys an overwhelming sense of loss. The idea of a slab of stone with names upon it does not sound like it would be a sight worth seeing. But, to those who have had the honor of standing in front of the wall and looking out at the seemingly endless etching of names, the wall invokes many emotions. The predominant emotion is simply the overwhelming sense of loss. A person goes on a journey as they make their way along the wall with a hand extended, touching and feeling the inscribed losses. It creates a connection with the fallen, making the lives cut short much more profound. It is an unforgettable experience, and a powerful reminder.

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