In a recent letter, Herbert D. Zeigler Jr. writes he was bothered that he was not permitted to validate his military service through having a Vietnam Veteran license plate on his car.
If memory serves me right, those who served in a specific area in a specific time qualify to have the plate issued. That specific place and time is defined “in Vietnam and surrounding waters.”
Those who were given orders to regions other than Vietnam thanked their lucky stars because they were able to know with some certainty that they would return from their overseas duty alive and unscathed.
I have a sense that Zeigler might be one who felt that sense of relief roughly 50 years ago.
All of us need to be aware that recent surveys show that roughly 13 million men report themselves to have served in Vietnam in this era from 1965 through 1975. Yet, history tells us that in Vietnam, only 2.9 million men and fewer than 10,000 women actually were serving “in country.”
Those who did serve in Vietnam included every occupation from HVAC technician to the tip of the spear as a grunt (as the infantry troops described themselves).
Not all veterans who say they are veterans of combat are (the ratio is 10 support for every one combat personnel).
Let me be specific: To make oneself appear to have been closer to the tip of the spear than one was actually is called stolen valor. If you did not do it, then do not say that you did.
Apparently, more than 10 million men from that generation are reporting falsely that they served in Vietnam. Perhaps, they have a memory lapse or have watched too many Sylvester Stallone films.
I hope Zeigler can feel a sense of pride that he answered the call to duty when asked.
BERTRAM S. ALLEN JR.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology