Most Americans know Vietnam veterans have been the most mistreated of all our military veterans. Defending a foreign country from the hostile takeover of communism appeared, to some, an unnecessary intervention. On March 29, 1973, our military pulled out of Vietnam. We were a country devastated by the loss of young lives for a purpose few of us knew as a threat. Today, we watch from the sidelines as communist countries threaten global security and economies. What we still call “The Vietnam War” is called by those living in Vietnam today “The American War.”
I never served in Vietnam. I had just entered my teens as we were pulling our troops out on this day in 1973. Living in the southeastern corner of Virginia, we were surrounded by military bases and respect for our troops never wavered. The anti-war sentiment in other parts of the country was obscured by our local media’s focus on the return of missing troops. Fellow students proudly wore shiny POW and MIA bracelets to raise hope for their return. When they did return, there was euphoria in our little corner of Tidewater, Virginia.
Researching Vietnam Scout Dog handler stories has provided me a deep appreciation for their courage. When the time came to share my initial manuscript for Follow His Lead with a Vietnam Vet Tech—who cared for the dogs in Vietnam—I was nervous. I learned he’d lost his voice, but when I received his email sharing his emotional reaction and praise, the best words I ever read were, “It’s hard to believe you were not there.” I’d sent my manuscript to him, having no idea a special day was coming the next week. By coincidence, his email to me arrived the night of March 29, 2022, moments after I attended my first National Vietnam War Veterans Day Memorial event.