The Unique Struggles Vietnam Veterans Faced When Returning Home

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The US government pays lip service to honoring veterans for their service, but it’s often just an empty gesture. Veterans face a number of unique challenges when returning home from service. These obstacles are largely unaddressed by the government and unknown to the public, leaving veterans to struggle in silence. This issue isn’t limited to veterans of recent conflicts. In fact, some of the worse-off veterans served decades and decades ago. These are some of the acute struggles Vietnam veterans faced when returning to the US from abroad. Keep in mind that many people who served in Vietnam are still facing these issues.

Diseases from Agent Orange exposure.

Agent Orange was a tactical herbicide used in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971 in an effort to defoliate the dense jungles in which forces were fighting. Tragically, the extensive use of this chemical mixture exposed many soldiers to toxic compounds. There are a number of detrimental health effects of exposure to Agent Orange including high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, ischemic heart disease, Parkinsonism, type 2 diabetes, and many more. Many Vietnam veterans didn’t develop issues from Agent Orange exposure until after returning home. Unfortunately, the government hasn’t been forthcoming with compensation for these terrible health consequences. Veterans are simply burdened with mounting health costs and declining health.

High rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can develop after a shocking, dangerous, or scary experience that leaves an individual with disturbing feelings and thoughts long after the initial experience. Military service is a common trigger for PTSD. In fact, around 30% of Vietnam veterans have experienced PTSD at some point in their lives. Although the medical field’s understanding of this condition has improved greatly over the past few decades, a significant portion of veterans never received the treatment they needed following their service in Vietnam which only exacerbates the condition.

Struggle finding civilian jobs.

There was a frustrating lack of support offered to Vietnam veterans when transitioning from the battlefield to the civilian workforce. This failed government and public support were exacerbated by a contracting economy which left fewer jobs for the returning soldiers. Younger veterans found it especially difficult to find work because they hadn’t had enough time to develop skills or obtain higher education before being deployed. This problem was even worse among minority groups who were still facing significant discrimination at the time despite the sacrifices made while serving.

Lack of support at home.

While the brave men and women of the US military were serving selflessly in Vietnam, a large section of the American public grew increasingly opposed to the war effort. It was one of the most active and sustained anti-war efforts the country had seen and stirred up a lot of animosity towards those serving. Instead of receiving a hero’s welcome, many veterans felt as though the public was unappreciative at best and hateful at worse. The anti-war movement made the mistake of blaming their brothers and sisters for serving when their real issues were with the US government.

High rates of houselessness.

Veterans account for more than a quarter of the population experiencing homelessness. Many of the struggles we’ve already mentioned such as lack of mental health assistance, poor job training options, and a general lack of support upon returning home contribute to the large levels of houselessness among Vietnam veterans. There are some fantastic nonprofits that have stepped up to fill the gap left by the public sector such as Habitat for Humanity, Operation Finally Home, Homes for Our Troops (HOOT), and The Gary Sinise Foundation. This is a massive obstacle most people don’t know about that some Vietnam veterans are still facing.

We have an obligation to honor and remember the sacrifices of those who served in the Vietnam War. If you’re looking for a way to show your appreciation, consider donating to the Oregon Vietnam Memorial Fund. Visit for more formation on the project and how to donate.