Cartoon a disservice to those who served

Mr. Quiberg is a retired U.S. Army major. He lives in Chico.

The May 10 issue of the CN&R included a “comic” strip by Ted Rall titled “Best + Whitest.” The strip was about Vietnam veterans and depicted a soldier yelling, “YEE-HAAAA!” while killing a Vietnamese. It also portrayed us veterans as drug-smoking killers of parents and children.

We who have experienced the horrors of war—not just Vietnam, but any war—often struggle as individuals to recover. Please don’t stereotype us by looking at a few people in the war or the behavior of a few veterans today. Also, there are many people who now claim to be Vietnam veterans, but when they are quizzed one finds they are not vets. They give us a very negative image.

Read the daily newspaper, and you will see examples of the deviant behavior of some individuals. When one sends a cross-section of society into combat, there will be some of the same type of people. Some went to Vietnam and, due to the nature of war, they had fewer controls over their behavior. Then they did unspeakable things. Others, through the horrors of combat, “lost it,” and they also did bad things. I am not making excuses. I only want to point out that these individuals were far from the norm. The vast majority of those sent to Vietnam served with honor.

I am deeply offended that Mr. Rall had the audacity to defame veterans of the war in such a manner. Also, I am very angry with the CN&R for using its widespread, informative newspaper to spread such damaging garbage. If you didn’t or don’t agree with our involvement in the Vietnam War, that’s OK. However, please don’t attack or ridicule us as individuals.

I understand that you may have thought what you did was timely and newsworthy because of events currently surrounding one person [U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey]. Those allegations can never be proved, and they could be an attempt to assassinate his character. He would then be removed from the political scene. Who knows?

I cannot speak for other veterans. However, for me, Mr. Rall and the CN&R, you have caused many things that I fight to forget to resurface as demons from the past.

As has been said many times, war is hell. In all wars terrible things happen. The worst that happens, on both sides, is watching friends and/or relatives die horrible deaths or being maimed for life. Also, there are many of us who still have to deal with memories of killing and maiming. Those memories of war are with us every day and every night in our nightmares. They never leave us, but God we pray that they would! Things such as what you have done trigger those memories to become intensified.

We do not want your pity. We just want a tiny bit of respect for going into a terrible situation and doing what our country asked us to do.

Mr. Rall, since the beginning of this country’s history, people have made unbelievable sacrifices when asked to go into harm’s way. We who have served in combat and supported our country’s goals and beliefs know how indescribably horrible war is. Whether you believe it or not, the truth is that nobody wants peace more than those who might have to fight and die to preserve it.

Looking back, we can now see that the Vietnam War should not have been entered into. But that 20/20 hindsight is very easy. At the time, our government and the vast majority of the people thought we were doing the right thing.

You and others are now degrading us for being Vietnam veterans. While this degradation continues, how can we not feel anything but shame?

You probably have not served in combat and experienced the terror, the noise, the screams (sometimes your own), the stench and the confusion of combat—especially at night. If you haven’t, you are very fortunate.

Look around, and you will find it very difficult to find Vietnam vets. Why? Because most don’t want to admit they were there and then have to face public ridicule. So many go through each day and night alone and silent—the same way they were greeted when they came home. They just don’t want to talk about it. They won’t even tell their spouses about what they had to experience or what they had to do.

However, they have tried very hard to become productive members of society, their communities, their churches and their families. How do you think their children and grandchildren must feel when they read about their hero in such a demeaning “comic” strip?

I served almost three years in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. For two of those years I flew armed helicopters (gunships). The remaining time was spent flying troop carriers (Hueys). I saw many men and women perform incredible acts of sacrifice and heroism. They were seldom recognized for their deeds with “shiny medals,” nor did they expect to be. I am sorry, but I do not look at my two Purple Hearts as “shiny medals.”

It took me almost 30 years before I would admit I had medals from Vietnam or to talk about the war at all. Mr. Rall and the CN&R, you cannot comprehend the damage you have done.

You have also degraded the Vietnamese people by calling them the G—- word. You have fueled the fires of prejudice and hatred against them. It’s over! Let’s move on! They also want the war left behind them. The majority of the Vietnam vets probably now hold no animosity toward the Vietnamese people. We accept them with respect, as we want them to respect us.

I do not agree with what you wrote and published. However, it was your right under freedom of the press to do even if it hurt a lot of good people. I served 20 years in the military willing to die, if necessary, defending your right to express your opinions and enjoy all of the other wonderful freedoms we have in this country. Your behavior, especially right before Memorial Day, was a very poor "thank you" to all who have served our country throughout history.