Vietnam did many things to this country. Some good, some bad, all painful. Most of all, it destroyed respect for soldiering as a profession. Conventional wisdom now says you join the military for an exciting job, for an easier way into college, for direction and discipline in your life. Today we never seem to even consider people would join because they want to be a soldier. A warrior. Someone who wants to be on the front line, who wants to serve their country by dancing on the knife edge of history.
Are all soldiers like that? Hardly. But there are many more than you'd think. It makes far too many effete intellectuals uncomfortable to think that there are people who would enjoy soldiering for its own sake. That's why Nightline made heroic national headlines with its Vietnam-retread "roll call of the dead", but accounts of living soldier's heroic deeds must languish in obscurity.
Maybe it's better this way. Maybe we should follow the liberal idea of war as nothing more than institutional, legalized murder. Maybe we should puzzle over, discount, fear (and fear for) those who would want to participate. Certainly, glorification has gotten far more nations in trouble. But I think perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, when the only real way a soldier can become famous is as a flag-draped box, a single forlorn picture in a paper, a name read off by a sobbing commentator. Why not read off a list of soldiers who did their duty with honor, who survived amazing acts of bravery?