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Characteristics of Vietnam Veterans

Facing the reality of participating in America’s first lost war.  This was a paradox given the fact that the American army never lost a major battle during the ten-year war. The war was fought in a culturally and environmentally foreign environment involving guerrilla warfare, where large numbers of civilian casualties were routine.  Interaction with the Vietnamese population was mostly negative and distant emotionally and culturally.

It was a controversial, unpopular war, actively opposed by large segments of the American public.  The American public did not separate its’ soldiers (sons and daughters) from government policy and recognize their responsibility in carrying out their duty to their country.
 
Most of the soldiers were drafted which meant they didn’t want to go fight in Vietnam. In essence, they were stuck in a double bind situation, which constantly fed into their emotions/psychological lives before, during, and after the war.

The average age of the Vietnam veteran was 19, whereas, the average of the World War II and Korean veteran was 26, age 23 for the Desert Storm combatant, age 25 for Iraq and Afghanistan.  There was a powerful psychological cost to learning to kill when learning to be socially intimate should have been the major adolescent growth passage.

At an age when most young men
are typically forming lasting ideas
about life and intimacy (Erickson,
1968), soldiers in Vietnam were
losing friends in violent ways, and
perhaps learning that closeness
hurts too much”

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Vietnam Wall Memorial Statue