I thought I knew the terms of enlistment and in-country (i.e. in Vietnam) service tours during the Vietnam war.
I’m too young to have served in the war, but it was a major issue when I was growing up. I knew plenty of older brothers who’d served, read a handful or two of the of the flood of nonfiction accounts (simply because there were so many books on the subject) in the late 70s/80s, and later treated many Vietnam vets during ratations through the VA system.
However, recently I’ve been presented with some accounts that make me wonder if I recall the details correctly. (There was a time when 'Nam vets talked a great deal about their experiences, and I enjoyed hearing about them, as I enjoy hearing any patient’s experiences, but I’ve noticed that in the last decade or so, they rarely mention their experiences. Perhaps it had something to do with the wars in Iraq; perhaps it simply doesn’t seem relevant to thei medical treatemnt after 30 years; perhaps they’ve found that most people simplay aren’t interested anymore.)
I know that we have many Vietnam era vets here, and I’d appreciate it if they could take a moment to recount the terms/conditions/durations of their enlistments, re-enlistments and in-country tours (if any) for the various services ca 1967-1973.
I’d also like to hear accounts from Vietnam veterans (both over and under 21) of their experiences and feelings about the 26th Amendment [which lowered the US voting age to 18, in 1971] including any exceptions and oddball situations
Many thanks. I tried looking this stuff up last night, but dur to the passage of time, it’s hard to get specific info on the Web. I’d have to go back to books that were boxed (and probably destroyed) decades ago
I was a Vietnam ERA vet, not a Vietnam vet. I was drafted in the fall of 1969 and shortly after induction, ‘relisted’ to increase my chances of not serving in Vietnam and was successful in that regard.
The commitment for draftees was 2 years active service. There was some extended commitment as inactive, but AFAIK, no one was affected by that. Most draftees went in the Army although a relative few were forced into the Marines.
In service in counrty for Vietnam was one year.
The minimum enlisted period for Army was three years. The other services may have been longer. Most individuals in the Reserve or National Guard served about six months active duty then monthly meetings for the balance of six years. A few units were activated and sent to Vietnam or in support thereof.
It was easier to get deferments or get out of serving in the military due to health, family or employment earlier in the period than in 1968-9. The draft itself ended about 1972 or so and the first birthday lottory was for 1970, IIRK.
I was in the Air Force from 1965 to 1967. Air Force enlisted tours were 4 years and officers were 2 years. (I received an honorable discharge at the convience of the Government due to pregnancy at 22 months of service)
I met my first husband in 1965. He was in for the entire 4 years. I was a medical corpsman and he was a fuel systems specialist. They didn’t send female corpsmen into combat then. (only nurses, go figure)
Since he worked on long distance birds, the closest he would have ever gotten might have been Guam, but, he just never got called to TDY until just under 6 months before his discharge. The rule was the shortest tour was 9 months. They tried to bully him into re-enlisting to do the TDY but he wouldn’t so he didn’t go. All the other guys in his unit did, but as I said only to Guam, and one to Japan.
We both had several friends who were in-country. In fact, I never met the Head Nurse of the unit I worked because she was on back to back 9 month TDY assignments. I know the two assignments were in different parts of the country, one being China Beach. I don’t remember the other. I do know the second one was her choice. She was a lifer, though, so re-enlistments were rather moot.
The voting issue was actually a sore point even in '65-'66. By '71, I was out, and over 21. I remember thinking that it wasn’t much of a compensation.
But, the real issue for alot of the 18-20 year olds was the drinking age. (what a surprise, for the age group) On base, we were allowed to drink beer in the Airman’s and NCO clubs, but I’m sure it wasn’t really legal.
I know there are those who now say the poor treatment of returning vets has been embellished. I don’t believe they were. I know while in medic school in Montgomery AL, I was kicked out of a shoe store for being in uniform. A good friend (female) was beaten up for trying to hitchhike back to base, because the local bus service insisted she was invisible.
The public wasn’t solely to blame. The military was pretty heartless as well. The brother of one of my partners in crime finished his tour and his enlistment at the same time. He was flown back to the states in a cargo transport (not his choice, it was an assigned flight) and just dumped in San Francisco. His home was Boston. We had to take up a collection to buy him a bus ticket across the country and some civies, so he’d be allowed to get on the bus. We were in Texas, so he stopped off to see his sis, and thank us for our help, he exchanged his dufflebag for a couple ratty suitcases, since even that was causing him to collect some grief.
For years, after, I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone I’d been in the military.
My view of the military and combat have changed dramaticly since that time of innocence.
Had the draft been in effect when my son became an adult, I would have packed for him for his move to The Netherlands.
Just my view.
That’s a very interesting account, picunurse .
On of the employees I supervise was a corpsman in Vietnam and has a history of post-traumatic stress. As a result, he likes to talk about his experience (which I think is a way to help deal with his issues). He tells me that one of the most difficult issues he had to face coming back was the incredible culture shock. Veterans returning from Vietnam were apparently just shipped back, unloaded, and more or less sent on their way. He had a very difficult time getting shot at on Monday, tending commrades who where in various bits and pieces on Tuesday, being discharged on Wednesday, and arriving back in the real world on Thursday without so much as a “Thanks for your service, here’s what you might expect…” He said he has the distinct recollection of boarding the plane home, falling almost instantly asleep, and waking up “back home” and thinking, “My God, I’ve been on a time machine.”
I’ve never asked him what he thought about the 26th amendment, but since he would have been older than 21 when he served I doubt that it made any difference to him at all.
A 26th amendment anecdote:
I was over 18 at the time the amendment was passed. It turned out that it went into effect the same day we were having a school budget vote. I was eligible, but you had to register in advance. I wasn’t eligible on the registration date, so I couldn’t vote.
The vote failed by a handful of votes. The school put the budget to a vote again. This time I did register.
Just before the vote, the school board had an informational meeting. At one point, a student got up to speak in favor of the budget. One of those opposing shouted something to effect that why was a student speaking.
The student shouted, “I’m eighteen. . . . and a voter.”
The budget passed.