A Sad Legacy Resurfaces

Oct 9, 2017

I have been drawn into Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s 10-part documentary on the Vietnam War, which vividly relates the remarkable tragedies of hubris in a profoundly misguided cause.

I am old enough to have watched the last desperate years of the war on the CBS Evening News, and clearly remember the evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon on April 30, 1975. There was a man who I never met that epitomized the tragic decisions of five U.S. presidents and the civilian and military leaders that surrounded them.

Cpl. Francis Mulvey was killed in Vietnam on Aug. 25, 1968; he was an only child and a childhood friend and longtime classmate of my Dad’s. I found Cpl. Mulvey’s name on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., during a visit in May 1994 and took a photo of it.

I showed the photo to my Dad a few weeks later, and his anger over Cpl. Mulvey’s death was just as fresh 26 years later. My Dad, who rarely swears, looked at the photo and said through gritted teeth, “That goddamned, stupid war.”

The men who served in Vietnam did what our country asked them to do. The problem was they were asked to go to the wrong place for the wrong reasons, and they suffered mightily for it. And for that we owe them a great deal gratitude.

They served in place they were not wanted, only to return to place that often disrespected them.        

I’m Andrew Nelson, and that’s my perspective.