The Vietnam War claimed over 50,000 American lives. American wounded numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Today’s Vietnam vets are nearing the end of their journey, some in their 80s. Time is running out to right a wrong.
From 1964 to 1973, young men across Appalachia and western Pennsylvania dutifully answered a notice from the draft board to enter the armed forces and serve in combat. Most didn’t want to go. Many were afraid to go. Yet off they went, leaving jobs at the mills and mines or delaying the start of college.
The lucky ones made it back home. The luckier ones made it back home without physical injury. The luckiest few made it back home without physical or mental scars. None returned home to enjoy a hero’s welcome.
Upon returning home, these newly minted veterans were subjected to their second war of attrition. This time it wasn’t NVA or Viet Cong sniping from distant, concealed positions, hidden in dense jungle foliage. Instead, it was the Left and their minions on campuses and in Hollywood, building and feeding a culture of disdain for Vietnam veterans.
The Left converted the noble into the evil (the Left excels at that). Jane Fonda saw Vietnam as a photo op and in 1972 posed in Hanoi wearing NVA gear atop an anti-aircraft gun. The prior year, John Kerry used his Vietnam service as an opportunity to boost his political career, testifying to Congress that American soldiers were monsters.
Enough. America’s national security rests in the hands of a military made largely of volunteer citizens. They don’t start wars; they are called on to finish them, no matter what the quality of leadership is from policymakers, Washington DC, or generals.
Last week, on March 29, our nation marked another Vietnam Veterans Day. I work for a company that is stacked with men and women who served across the military. And we put our hearts and souls into making tangible, impactful, and meaningful positive differences in our local communities and wider region of Appalachia.
You can probably guess where this was going.
On Wednesday evening we headed down to Waynesburg, to the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post 4793. We stopped in to say hi to some of our neighbors, fellow domestic energy workers, friends, and coworkers. To find another way to have the CNX Foundation and Appalachia First come alive. And to do it on Vietnam Veterans Day.
Wednesday was the always popular wing night at Post 4793, which was filled with regular members, from families with small kids to old timers. So, we bought the wings for the night (food never fails to please). We raffled off four Penguins tickets. We ate wings and had a tap beverage or two. Talked some, listened more. Forgot to sign ‘the book.’ And promised we would be back.
March 29 at Waynesburg VFW Post 4793 marked the start of something new at CNX and for the CNX Foundation. We are all in with supporting this region’s veterans through the VFWs and American Legions spread across the communities where we operate and live: western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia, and western Virginia.
See you soon, veterans. On taco Tuesdays or wing night. At events to honor a recently departed member. To say hi and…thank you.
Waynesburg and its vets are the epitome of western Pennsylvania. And western Pennsylvania is the heart of Appalachia. And Appalachia is the soul of America.