Do your kids know about the Vietnam War? Group looks to educate and honor

VIETNAM WAR- 25TH ANNIVERSARY: D.R. Howe treats the wounds of Private First Class D.A. Crum, "H" Company, 2nd Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, During Operation Hue City in Vietnam 06 February, 1968 AFP PHOTO/NATIONAL ARCHIVES (Photo credit should read NATIONAL ARCHIVES/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the biggest lessons from the Vietnam War: Don’t blame the service members.

Thirty percent of the Americans who died in Vietnam were drafted. They did not have a choice. They had to fight.

Many of those who survived were called names and disrespected when they returned home. It’s one reason communities are coming together now to talk about what happened in Vietnam more than 50 years ago.

Last month, the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration hosted a panel discussion at Shoreline Community College.

One the panel:

  • 76-year-old Joe Crecca of North Bend, who after being shot down, spent six-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war at the camp best known as the Hanoi Hilton.
  • 75-year-old old famed war correspondent Joe Galloway, the only civilian awarded a medal for valor in combat by the U.S Army during the entire Vietnam war.
  • 84-year-old Bruce Crandall, who grew up in Olympia. As a Huey helicopter pilot, Crandall evacuated more than 70 wounded soldiers from the battlefield in a day during one of the war’s bloodiest battles. For his service, Crandall received the military’s highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

They discussed the war the U.S. didn’t win, while honoring and remembering the commitment and sacrifice of the brave Americans who fought it.

Vietnam veteran Craig Ford feels like vets are still fighting to make sure the Vietnam War is not forgotten.

“I’ve got younger grandsons,” Ford said. “A lot of this is not being taught in the schools.”

“They don’t know about our involvement," Crecca said. "They don’t know why we were there, or that so many people suffered. That 58,307 names are on that black granite wall (at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.)."

Many of the war's old wounds still have not healed.

Francisco Ivarra, the President of the Washington State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America, stood up to say the contributions of Hispanics in the war are too often not represented.

“There’s something wrong here,” Ivarra said. “Because we have perspective on the Vietnam War, and so do women, but it’s being left out.”

Crecca responds, “If you have an ax to grind, this is not a place to grind it!”

Ivarra says, “It’s not an ax to grind, sir.”

Crandall jumps in, “You’re grinding it. You’re grinding it.”

Many Vietnam veterans still talk about life after the war. Coming home to a country deeply divided about the war, they were often called “baby killers” or “war mongers” and made to feel ashamed of their military service. To this day it still causes pain.

“Hurts my heart,” Galloway said.  “Makes me angry. Makes me sad.”

"The legacy of the Vietnam veteran is going to live forever," Crecca said. "The way soldiers and marines are treated today is because of how the Vietnam veterans were mistreated.”