The draft forced hard choices for the men who fought, and those who didn’t. But it also led the way to today’s professional all-volunteer force. The war took helicopters in a whole new direction as weapons, critical to this day in Afghanistan. And the fear of another Vietnam quagmire became the lens through which today’s military action is viewed.




Legacy etched in Vietnam wall, Jan Scruggs ready to retire

In 1981, the design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was met with howls of protest, a campaign to undermine it, racist comments and even a spurious Red Scare.

At the center of the politicized melee was an unassuming Labor Department investigator. No one had heard of him until he took a week off to start planning what would become one of the most recognizable monuments in the country.



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.

Yet the “troubled vet” stereotype, while rooted in truth, shadowed that silent majority of returning troops as they again donned civilian clothes. The stubborn perception colored how others treated them and complicated their recovery from psychic wounds that, if not so severe as to push them to homelessness or suicide, still needed to mend.






GALLERIES | Healing at the Wall [Back to top]


Faces of the Wall reaches 20,000 photos as education center gains momentum

Volunteers scattered across the country have been working to gather photos of every one of the 58,300 dead American servicemembers whose names are listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. One official said that after years of work, the process has reached a stage akin to a bit of snow giving way to an avalanche.

The poignant process of etching new names into the Vietnam Wall

Even though the war ended four decades ago, the list continues to grow as Jim Lee and Kirk Bockman find spots to carefully sandblast new names on the memorial. Says Lee: “It’s a very poignant statement about what war is all about.”



Vietnam Veterans Memorial: A place to remember, reconcile and learn

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. is a place of reconciliation, as well of healing, remembering and, in the case of younger visitors, learning about the war that cost over 57,000 American lives.



Solemn tributes to the fallen at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Every day, tributes to the fallen are left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Sometimes there are only a handful; on special occasions there are dozens. But they are always poignant.



Decades later, 'Vietnam syndrome' still casts doubts on military action

“Vietnam syndrome,” a concept declared dead and reborn several times in the decades since the last American combat troops left Southeast Asia, drives the desire to avoid another open-ended commitment with an uncertain endgame, where U.S. troops spend years on the ground in a foreign country, fighting against an enemy that can blend back into the civilian population far too easily.





The press and public turn skeptical on war outlook

In early 1968, not long after the Tet offensive, CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite traveled to Vietnam to gauge the war’s progress. Cronkite, who before the trip had supported the escalating U.S. military campaign in Southeast Asia, returned to his desk in New York with his perspective at once enlightened and darkened.

Vietnam leads to the death of the draft and the rise of the professional soldier

While Vietnam was a low point, it also served as the engine of change that brought about perhaps the single greatest reform to transform the military in the post-Vietnam war era: the launch of the all-volunteer force. Its legacy is the warrior class of today, the 1.3 million-strong active-duty service that is just a fraction of the roughly 140 million Americans eligible to serve.



INFOGRAPHIC | Looking back on 'Hanoi Hilton' [Back to top]

Well-known prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton

Vietnam POW returns to the Hanoi Hilton in search of closure

Lee Ellis remembers it all too well — the deprivation, the torture and the constant fight against depression as days turned into years. But just over a week before he went back to Vietnam for the first time since his release in 1973, he still wasn’t sure about how he felt about it.



Emotions flow at first ever Honor Flight for Vietnam veterans

More than 100 Vietnam veterans traveled to Washington, D.C., on August 2, 2013, on an Honor Flight for Wisconsin vets. They came to visit their buddies — forever 19 or 20 or 21. Everywhere they went, they were treated as heroes. They were moved. They were touched.

In Memory Day honors Vietnam War veterans not listed on the Wall

When Carol Fox placed a picture of her husband, Capt. Walker Paul Fox, at the Vietnam Wall as part of the In Memory Day ceremony on Thursday, it was another bit of closure for the families of 96 veterans whose names won’t be carved into the granite.