I heard Ehrhart speak last week. He is a Vietnam veteran who became an author and poet, and participated extensively as part of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (WWAV). His description of the late sixties and early seventies matches what I remember – the impact of the military draft, the horrors of “pacification”, the trauma experienced by soldiers.
Ehrhart challenges the “rewriting” of history that took place since them, leading President Obama to declare that military service in Vietnam was “honorable” and the US was “right” to have invaded Southeast Asia.
One inaccuracy Ehrhart challenges is a historical timeline that says the Vietnam War “began” in the mid sixties, dismissing the French colonization and other outrages which sowed the seeds of calamity.
During the Q/A time, Ehrhart was challenged by a very recent veteran who disagreed with him about whether our current military exploits are truly different now than in Vietnam. Time did not allow them to continue their discussion.
I considered asking about “moral damage”, a framework now used to understand one aspect of the psychological damage brought home by combat veterans. I think Ehrhart would agree that he suffered that injury. His description of self-destructive behavior during his years of readjustment makes me grateful that he survived. That he has shared his experiences and reflections is a wonderful, if sobering, gift to us all.