All the talk lately about the 40th anniversary of Woodstock has overshadowed another important event that was going on at the same time — the Vietnam war.
Ken Anderson, a VFW member from Chamberlain, attempted to put things back into proper perspective with his letter to the editor in today’s edition of The Daily Republic.
I think Ken’s letter is so well written that I’m reprinting it here in its entirety. It’s a direct, yet not mean-spirited, reminder that soldiers overseas were dying for their country while the Woodstock hippies were pursuing their own personal pleasures.
Here’s the letter:
In regard to the 40th anniversary of Woodstock: The news magazine Newsweek described them as a “youthful, long-haired army, almost as large as the U.S. force in Vietnam.”
The news magazine wrote of “wounded hippies” sent to impromptu hospital tents. Some 400,000 of the nation’s affluent young “attended the electric pot dream.” Time gushed with admiration for the gathering. “It may well rank as one of the significant political and sociological events of the age.” It deplored the three deaths there — “One from an overdose of drugs (heroin) and hundreds of youths freaked out on bad trips caused by LSD.” Yet attendees exhibited a mystical feeling for themselves as a special group,” according to the magazine’s glowing essay.
That same tribute mentioned the “meaningless war in the jungles of Southeast Asia” and quoted a commentator who said the young needed “more opportunities for authentic service.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, 514,000 mostly young American men and women were authentically serving the country that had raised them to place society over self. The casualties they sustained over those four days were genuine, yet none of the elite media outlets were praising their selflessness.
So 40 years later, let’s finally look at those 109 brave Americans who sacrificed their lives in Vietnam answering their country’s call Aug. 15-18 of 1969. From line 43 to line 64 on Panel 19 west of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, you’ll find the names of 109 Americans who died in Vietnam during the four days of Woodstock.
Overwhelmingly, 87 percent were in the Army. Marines and airmen accounted for 8 and 4 percent of the deaths, respectively, with sailors sustaining 1 percent. Again, not unexpectedly, two-thirds were infantrymen. The preponderance, 56 percent, had volunteered while 43 percent had been drafted. One was in the National Guard.
Of the four days, Aug. 18 was the worst for the men in Vietnam; 35 of them died on that day.
So when you hear talk of the glories of Woodstock — the so-called “defining event of a generation” — keep in mind those 109 GIs who served nobly yet are never lauded by the illustrious spokesmen for the ’60s generation.