A Healing of the Political Wounds of the Vietnam War
Undated (AP) _ Where were you during Vietnam?
That question dogged President-elect Clinton and other candidates during their campaigns.
Now, John Wheeler, one of the veterans who spearheaded the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, is proposing a final healing of political wounds from that war during the 10th anniversary of the memorial next week.
″We have 100,000 veterans and their families coming to Washington,″ he said. ″This is a perfect setting for healing in our generation from the divisions of the Vietnam era and for banishing for good the question: ‘Where were you during Vietnam?’ Some won’t want to let it go.″
Wheeler said he hopes President Bush, Vice President Dan Quayle, Clinton and Vice President-elect Al Gore could speak at ceremonies commemorating the anniversary on Veterans Day next Wednesday.
″If they would, they could work a miracle for our country,″ said Wheeler. ″The whole point of the memorial is healing and unity.″ The monument carries the names of all 58,175 men and eight women killed and missing from the Vietnam War.
James Brazee, president of the 45,000-member Vietnam Veterans of America, said it’s in everybody’s best interests to close the divisions.
″The electorate has spoken,″ said Brazee. ″It’s no longer an issue whether he ought to be president. We have to move forward. There are many concerns that face this country and we all have to work together to solve them. He’s going to be the commander in chief and we will work with him and hope that he works with us.″
Brazee said a host of issues face the 2.7 million Vietnam veterans, including compensation for victims of Agent Orange, health care and a resolution of the fate of the 2,265 comrades still unaccounted for.
Despite charges by Bush that Clinton had not told the truth about avoiding the draft, he apparently fared well among veterans, according to Voter Research & Surveys, a joint project of ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC.
Among veterans, 41 percent supported Clinton, 38 percent supported Bush and 21 percent supported Ross Perot in surveys of more than 15,000 voters as they left the polls Tuesday.
Among those supporting Bush was Hubert Buchanan, 50, of Amherst, N.H., an Air Force pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam and held prisoner of war for 6 1/2 years.
But he said Clinton’s draft status was not a factor and he voted for Bush because ″I have more conservative views than liberal views. I didn’t like all three of them too much.
″Just whoever does the best job of governing is the only thing that I was considering,″ said Buchanan. ″That’s a long time ago, 20 years ago. That was a controversial war. There were a lot of people doing stuff like that. Forgive and forget and move on.″
Fred Tucker, a 52-year-old business executive in Nashville, Tenn., who served with the Marines in Vietnam, said that he was not a strong supporter of Clinton.
He voted for Bush, he said, on the basis of his favorable record in dealing with business and because of his experience as commander in chief and in international politics.
″But the best man won and I support him 100 percent,″ Tucker said. ″The mind set of some folks will never change about him. I’m going to take a wait- and-see attitude and hopefully he’ll be able to serve as president and commander in chief and make a go of it.″
Tim Manigan, 45, of Townsend, Mass., who was badly wounded in Vietnam, said he didn’t see any difference in the Bush and Clinton tickets from a Vietnam standpoint.
″I was never happy with Bush for taking Quayle on because of Vietnam,″ said Manigan. ″Quayle got himself into the National Guard. So when Bush criticized Clinton for his not serving, I didn’t think he had anything to stand on after choosing Quayle.″ Quayle did not serve in Vietnam either.
″I felt Clinton made a decision and said he was against the war,″ said Manigan. ″I guess I would have felt better if he had served in Vietnam. But I don’t think that’s the final prerequisite to become president.″
Manigan said he voted for Perot because he honored James Stockdale, a Vietnam POW and war hero, by choosing him for vice president. If Perot were not in the race, he would have voted for Clinton, he said.
″It’s probably a time for healing,″ Manigan said. ″We can’t keep fighting the Vietnam War.″