Myths about the Vietnam war

Since I was in the Australian Army during the Vietnam war and volunteered for service in Vietnam, I take some interest in righting the misconceptions that prevail about that war. Just some excerpts below from a very wide-ranging article.

"Burkett looked into the apparently high suicide rate among Vietnam veterans and found it was not even remotely true. "Vietnam veterans have one of the lowest suicide rates in America. The two years after the war there was a slightly elevated rate that was only modestly higher then our peers who never went into the military. It fell off dramatically after that," he said.

Widespread Vietnam Veteran homelessness is another myth. "Back, around the late 70's Teddy Kennedy had a $10 million government grant to have a building in Boston for all the homeless Vietnam veterans. Several of guys gave testimonies about how they ended up on the street after Vietnam, but I got the military records of those individuals and virtually none of them were Vietnam veterans," he said. Burkett said other investigations have shown that very few "homeless veterans" were in the military.

Another myth he dispelled was the incarceration rate of Vietnam veterans. The prisons are not full of criminal veterans, Burkett said. "I went to the bureau of prisons and got the statistics, the demographics. At the time there were 1 million men in prison. 55% of those in prison are black, only 10.5% Vietnam Veterans are black. 80% of the incarcerated do not have a high school degree. As I mentioned 90% of Vietnam Veterans do have a high school degree. You can't get in the military with a felony conviction and 80% of the incarcerated have a felony conviction as a youth offender. About 75% came from broken homes, but about 80% of Vietnam Veterans came from a 2-parent home," he said.....

Burkett said drug rates were also low among Vietnam veterans, partly due to surprise inspections. "You could buy marijuana very easily; they literally sold it in bags on the street. But when you're living in a bay with 40 guys and you may be going into combat, I can guarantee if you're doing drugs-marijuana or otherwise-the 39 other guys are going to report it because they're not going into combat with some pot-head," he said....

Burkett said race was another politically incorrect myth he tackled. At the time of the Vietnam War, 13.5% of the draft pool was black yet only 12.5% among this group were drafted. Because of less access to medical care and lower educational rates, blacks failed the physical and aptitude exams at a higher rate than whites. "Nobody's ever telling the real story of the black man in Vietnam. They are always focusing on "The black man; the victim". They weren't victims; they were patriotic Americans. 75 percent of the blacks that served in Vietnam were volunteers-exactly the same rate as whites. Twenty won the Medal of Honor, 100 won the Distinguished Service Cross and dozens upon dozens won the airforce cross and the Navy Cross. "Nobody knows that about 300 went on to become admirals or generals in the armed services of America," he said.

Burkett also refuted the idea that it was only the poor or middle class who served and died in Vietnam. Contrary to an explosive story that said rich kids stayed home, Burkett said high per-capita income communities like Beverly Hills, and Grosse Pointe, Mich. actually had significantly higher casualty rates than the norm...."

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