COMMENTARY | We all know something wrong happened with the way America got into the Vietnam War, and how we got out of it. But for some reason, we fail to learn from the past. The treatment of recent war veterans is just the last example of historic myopia concerning the Vietnam legacy.
I remember a great Saturday Night Live skit, in which Dana Carvey plays President George Herbert Walker Bush. In addressing Congress after Operation Desert Storm, he says, "We have learned the lessons of the Vietnam War. Never get in a war again in Vietnam!"
As strange as it sounds, we're about to miss another historic lesson. On Memorial Day, President Barack Obama criticized the poor treatment of Vietnam veterans, while speaking at the Vietnam War Memorial, according to Jon Garcia with ABC News:
"You were often blamed for a war you didn't start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor… And even though some Americans turned their back on you, you never turned your back on America," Obama told the crowd.
Yet the Veterans Administration is struggling to meet the demand for those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The current staff is swamped with claims of physical injuries, PTSD, and combat stress. More veterans are surviving now than wars of the past, which also means more needs, according to Marilynn Marchione with the Associated Press.
"These new veterans are seeking a level of help the government did not anticipate, and for which there is no special fund set aside to pay," Marchione writes. Nearly half a million vets have been waiting for their claims to be processed for more than four months, a delay that includes new VA rules covering greater acceptance of Agent Orange claims, a move opposed by some in Congress.
The head of the Disabled American Veterans acknowledges the frustration most vets face with the claims that could cost close to a trillion dollars to treat. "There's a lot of sympathy and a lot of people want to help. But memories are short and times change."