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 What people are saying about Haunting Legacy

"What a terrific book!"

Lesley Stahl, correspondent for 60 Minutes


"This is great narrative history and biography combined to create informative case studies."

Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute


"Marvin Kalb and Deborah Kalb’s account of this phenomenon is studiously researched, vividly narrated, and, above all, highly readable. It will stand as a major contribution to the subject."

Stanley Karnow, author of Vietnam: A History and winner of the Pulitzer Prize

 

To read more reviews of Haunting Legacy, click here.

Wednesday
Mar282012

Q&A with Jan Scruggs, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

It's been 30 years since the groundbreaking for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, so Haunting Legacy asked Jan Scruggs, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, some questions about the memorial, the war's legacy, and the treatment of returning veterans:

Q: What has or hasn’t changed for veterans in the past 30 years since the groundbreaking?

A: Military veterans of the Vietnam War - and more recent conflagrations - are certainly better accepted by the public.   During Vietnam there were many who were angry at the American participants.  Some viewed us as suckers or fools for going to War.  Others viewed the veterans as tainted with personal immorality which somehow flowed from doing what the nation's leaders and institutions asked during a time of national crisis and debate over a war many considered as immoral and/or unjustifiable.  The Mantra of the promotional effort for The Wall was to "separate the war from the warrior".   This was a catchy phrase and we were able to garner significant grassroots and political support which allowed completion of the effort in record time.   Throughout American history a small number of people have done the fighting and served in the military.   Their service deserves to be elevated by society. 

Q: How has the Wall affected perceptions of the Vietnam War?

A: The Wall has not had any impact on how people feel about the War- none that I have observed.  Most people do not feel, in retrospect, that the results from the enormous cost of lives, money and national prestige was worth a decade plus of war in Vietnam.  There was a theoretical, ideological threat flowing from communism which many viewed as exaggerated.  The war still has its defenders.  And the North Vietnamese Communists were no choir boys.  But this was the most divisive event in the USA during the 20 th century.

The point of The Wall was to get some compassion and recognition for the American military veterans of the conflict.   People can debate the wisdom of the Vietnam War all they want.  But this was never our agenda.  We do encourage study and debate of that war with our Teach Vietnam effort aimed at high schools and middle schools.  The Wall and statues are dedicated to the Men and Women of the Armed Forces of the United States of America Who Served in the Vietnam War.   

Q: What do you think of the public’s attitude toward returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with how Vietnam veterans were viewed upon your return?

A: People are generally very kind to the returning veterans.  Many Vietnam vets are the ones organizing public events at airports and elsewhere.    The public realizes that these people returning from War are from their states and cities serving at great cost to themselves and taking huge personal risks. People are generally not persuaded that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been worth the blood and national treasure. At least the veterans are not being blamed.  That is the whole point.

Q:  How large a shadow do you think the Vietnam War has cast on subsequent American policymakers and the decisions they’ve made?

A: Haunting Legacy says it all.  The Vietnam War remains the Gorilla in the Room that cannot be ignored.  An impoverished nation that was not very technologically advanced - what was then called North Vietnam -  somehow out lasted the United States and marched victorious  into Saigon in 1975.   Yet our national security experts have gotten us into Afghanistan.  The results or a Trillion plus dollars and a decade spent there seem pretty questionable. In Iraq we beat their entire military then spent years and thousands killed and wounded trying to establish a government for them, as we are doing with little success in Afghanistan. The Vietnam War has cast a shadow, but has not had significant impact on the decision making process which brought about these two most recent wars.  Estimates range to Three Trillion Dollars.  The deaths and injuries among US troops are substantial.  Did these wars make America safer or enhance our prestige?  

We are now wisely using better techniques and to take fewer losses.  The operation to topple Libya's Khaddafy was brilliant.  The Libyans did the infantry fighting.   We and

NATO gave them some air power.  We got Bin Laden with some SEALS and the CIA.  We can target terrorists and assist local people who are fighting them.  And we have to fight them, but let's be wise about how we do it.   

As a nation we need to look very carefully before another massive use of our Army and Marines to fight in infantry engagements on the ground.   Lets hope for better decisions before risking America's soldiers and our national treasure in the future.

Q: What’s next on the agenda for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund?

A: Funny you should ask!    http://vvmf.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/the-legacy-of-the-vietnam-veterans-memorial/

 

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: www.buildthecenter.org 

 

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 --Deborah Kalb, co-author of Haunting Legacy

 

Jan Scruggs
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