The Vietnam War was one of the most troubling, challenging times for America. It was America’s most unpopular war, and it sharply divided our country. Some proudly enlisted and volunteered for duty. Some had to be drafted, but served their country and did their duty. Many protested against the war. And some even immigrated to Canada to avoid the draft. But as diverse their views and opinions were they shared one thing in common: they formed their opinions and then followed their convictions. But there was one who didn’t: Willard Mitt Romney.
That’s Mitt on the right in May 1966, at Standford University. Some students had organized a sit-in demonstration protesting the war, the draft, and university President Sterling’s support for the war. So Mitt joined a counter demonstration supporting the war in Vietnam and the draft. He thought those anti-war protestors should just shut up and prepare to be drafted and deployed. When he was running for President in 2007 he claimed in an interview with NBC that he wanted to serve and fight in Vietnam:
“I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there, and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting in Vietnam”.
But when he was running for the Senate in 1994, he told the Boston Herald something a little different:
“It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam, but nor did I take any actions to remove myself from the pool of young men who were eligible for the draft“.
As Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott wrote long ago: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”. Because once you start lying it quickly gets difficult keeping things straight. Yes, Mitt, you did take actions to remove yourself from being eligible for the draft. Four times. You got your first deferment in 1965, a student deferment while at Stanford. And then you took a religious deferment from 1966 through 1969, when you did your Mormon Mission in Paris. Where you dreamed longingly of Ann, while lounging at the beach.
While those you told to shut up and go to Vietnam were also on the beach, but under somewhat different conditions:
Anti-war demonstrator, draft dodger, draft server or volunteer, they all the courage to follow their convictions. While Mitt Romney said one thing and did another. Just like he did when he cares about all Americans, but then in a private fundraiser shows his disdain for 47% he says it’s not his job to care about. And Romney’s actions avoiding the Vietnam war explains why it never occurred to him to honor and thank our men and women in uniform when he accepted his party’s nomination to be Commander in Chief. Let Vietnam War veteran, Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb explain it to you:
During the year I was in Vietnam, 1969, our country lost twice as many dead as we have lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined over the past 10 years of war. Not a day goes by when I do not think about the young Marines I was privileged to lead. Those young Marines that I led have grown older now. They’ve lived lives of courage, both in combat and after their return, where many of them were derided by their own peers for having served. That was a long time ago. They are not bitter. They know what they did. But in receiving veterans’ benefits, they are not takers. They were givers, in the ultimate sense of that word. There is a saying among war veterans: “All gave some, some gave all.” This is not a culture of dependency. It is a part of a long tradition that gave this country its freedom and independence. They paid, some with their lives, some through wounds and disabilities, some through their emotional scars, some through the lost opportunities and delayed entry into civilian careers which had already begun for many of their peers who did not serve.
And not only did they pay. They will not say this, so I will say it for them. They are owed, if nothing else, at least a mention, some word of thanks and respect, when a presidential candidate who is their generational peer makes a speech accepting his party’s nomination to be commander-in-chief. And they are owed much more than that — a guarantee that we will never betray the commitment that we made to them and to their loved ones.
All gave some, some gave all. And one did neither.