Vietnam vet recalls first ‘war on television’

Dear editor,

This Memorial Day, I would like to give a big thanks to all our troops in the Middle East who are fighting a war our government wants to ride until the wheels fall off.

I also want to thank all veterans of foreign wars for their courage, patriotism and desire to make this country a better place for all of us.

Because I am a Vietnam vet, I never pass up a chance to remember the men and the peculiar circumstances that surrounded that war.

After all, it was a long time ago, and a lot of younger folks have no idea how things were.

When trying to remember, we mustn’t forget the really simple stuff. America’s video age was just in its adolescence and the small screen had its first chance to cover a nation at war.

And the television reporters spoke a new language for the times. They spoke of firefights, M-16s, Viet Cong, “buying the farm,” door gunners, Hueys, Medivacs, the DMZ, body counts, flak vests, No. 1 and No. 10, rice paddies, RPGs, concertina wire, Claymores, hootches, free-fire zones, short-timers, grunts, walking point, “getting iced,” Ho Chi Minh Trail, tunnel rats, napalm, R&R and “catching the big bird home.”

With that language came a new set of images, often more startling than the audience had seen before:

Americans leaping out of chopper doors, bloody grunts being dragged from the line of fire, dead VD laid out on the road after a firefight.

Lucky Marines grabbing a ride on an APC, shirtless dog soldiers— Marlboros in the helmets and holding a Budweiser in one hand and a grenade launcher in the other.

The president on prime time from the oval office with yet more war news and the long boxes being off-loaded at California air bases.

We must not forget, it was a more simple time and the information highway was still a deer trail.

Network television was taken as reality, giving the folks back home a look at what some of the boys were going through.

No previous generation ever had access to this.

The advent of the war on the dinner hour broadcast, put life as we’d known it on its ear and left it there.

All of our nightmares about it now have 18-inch Zeniths in them, flickering against the far wall.

Gregory T. Dodd 3108 South Highway 36 Milano, TX

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2012-05-31 digital edition

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