For many Oregonians, the only connection they have with the Vietnam War is through high school and college courses, movie and film adaptations, or books and magazines. Although these are excellent resources for learning about the conflict, they don’t always strike at the heart of why Oregonians should care about the Vietnam War. It’s crucial to be informed about our nation’s history, but it’s equally important to feel connected. Here are a few reasons why everyone living in Oregon should care about this historic war.
The Vietnam War is only second to World War II as the deadliest engagement for Oregon citizens. A record number of Oregonians made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, underscoring the state’s commitment to freedom and democracy. A total of 791 Oregonians gave their lives in the Vietnam War right behind the 3,700 who perished in WWII. Citizens of Oregon today should view the battle not just as the United States fight but as an Oregonian fight. The Beaver State should feel a sense of pride for the bravery and selflessness of their fellow statesmen in the effort.
There’s a pervasive misconception that draftees primarily fought the Vietnam War. Although it was one of the largest drafts in recent memory, it has to be understood within the context of the massive mobilization taking place at the time. A staggering 2.7 million Americans were stationed in Vietnam with millions of others mobilized at home. Contrary to popular belief, only one-third of Americans shipped off to Vietnam were drafted. The rest were all volunteers who felt personally compelled to protect their loved ones and brethren across the world. This salient fact flips the narrative that the Vietnam War was waged entirely by the US leadership without any support from the American public.
The Vietnam War might feel like a distant conflict, but there are still several million veterans living across the United States with a significant portion living in Oregon. Vietnam Veterans are as young as 62, and their median age is 75. Oregonians should still care about the Vietnam War because there’s a good chance a neighbor, coworker, or relative risked their lives in the conflict to protect the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis. This recognition and appreciation are meaningful to those who served by reaffirming their choice to sacrifice their time and risk their lives protecting Americans at home.
Over time, it’s easy to feel more and more distanced from the Vietnam War. But time is no excuse for misremembering or altogether forgetting our country’s history. Despite being fought in a far-off country, the Vietnam War was one of the most defining battles in our nation’s history. We’re still feeling the ripple effects to this day. Communism and similar totalitarian forms of government are still an active threat in many areas of the world. The US has proven its commitment to the spread of democracy and pluralism across the world and many countries have followed suit. The Vietnam War proved that dedication and will continue to inform generations in the future about what it means to fight for freedom.
It’s easy to get bogged down in historical nuances, but there was one foundational motivation behind the Vietnam War: To protect the rights, freedoms, and liberties of people across the world. Dictatorships were spreading like wildfire in the region at the time, and the US decided to draw a line in the sand. The sacrifices made by Oregonians and all people who fought ensured that the threat of communism didn’t spread throughout the region. Although communist North Vietnam did prevail in its effort to take over the country, most nations in Asia have flourishing democracies. This underscores the US achievement of limiting the spread of dictatorships.
The Oregon Vietnam Memorial is committed to giving veterans the honor and recognition they deserve by establishing a monument to commemorate the sacrifices made by our fellow Oregonians. Please visit www.ocvvm.com to learn more about the project and how you can help make this a reality.