tunnel found at a Viet Cong regimental base camp

The lingering stigma of the 'troubled vet'

They came home without leaving Vietnam, angry and depressed, retreating from the world and burdened by memories of the dead. They came home intent on resuming their lives, changed but resilient, returning to work or school and driven by ambitions for the future.

The first category describes most Vietnam veterans as held in the country’s imagination and depicted in Hollywood films of the era. The second describes the ordinary reality most of them lived.



By Terry Leonard, Stars and Stripes

When Neil Armstrong took his small step for man in the lunar dust in July 1969, Americans saw it as proof there were no Earthly limits. Nothing then seemed beyond the reach of American power, prestige and know-how. It took Vietnam to expose the hubris in that sentiment.

The American Century was at its zenith. Unrivaled U.S. wealth and prosperity, predictable fruits of the postwar Pax Americana, lifted national influence to new heights globally. Hollywood, rock music, blue jeans and hamburgers carried American culture, taste and values to the far corners of the world.

Yet with the images of Apollo 11 still fresh on the mind, Vietnam forced Americans to accept limits to their power and to acknowledge their reach had exceeded their grasp.