My day started out in the front yard doing yard work. All the while mowing, I got to watch our next door neighbors with three little kids walk out of the front with a wagon loaded up. Lots of small flags, the youngest a boy maybe aged 3, carried a pinwheel spinning red, white, and blue in the wind. I say, “Hey, what’s going on here, it looks like a 4th of July pararde?” They let me know they were planting the flags along the walkway entrance to our cul de sac for Memorial Day.
I thought instead of remembering broadly those who sacrificed their lives I’d focus instead on one battle in one war and maybe trying to find a personal story or two about who they were. I tried to think of some battle that was interesting and D-Day, Normandy immediately came to mind. But I know from my father a Vietnam Veteran who flew C-130’s, that war was a time where soldiers came back and they weren’t appreciated, instead they were vilified. My Father would tell stories of returning from Vietnam in uniform and being met with hostility, people trying to spit on him or someone he was with. With any war, any combat, I think some folks, a majority of soldiers are common people, a cross-cut slice of society, doing a job, trying to get by. There’s a concept called “necessary war,” meaning to stop grave injustices or to halt another group of people forcing their will outside of the law or human decency, conflict, violence, combat, warfare becomes necessary. This is clear I think even for the most peace-loving individuals in a situation like WWII. If we don’t do this, the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler are seeking to rule the world, Great Britain, Russia, probably eventually America. If your son or daughter has a bully at school that steals their lunch money every day, you parent for diplomacy…talk to your teachers, let them know. That doesn’t resolve it. Eventually you got to do something. Or who’s going to blame the child in the schoolyard that stands up against the playground bully who is picking on a smaller child or a girl? No one, that’s who? WWII and D-Day was that case. However, when we look at Vietnam, was it a necessary war? I think we know now, it wasn’t. Which makes the deaths, casualties, and sacrifices made all that more tragic.
The long and short of Khe Sahn was that it was a Marine Combat Base near the dividing De-Militarized Zone that split North from South Vietnam. The Marine Base was located there also near the border of Laos to stop the flow of resupply and troops that came through Laos into South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese were massing troops to take on the American and South Vietnamese forces there. So in the immediate area there were 20 – 30K Northern Forces countered by approx. 6,000 US and Southern forces. The Combat Base and surrounding hill locations were under siege and the Battle for Khe Sanh lasted from January 21st to July 9th, 1968. What was the end result…anywhere from approx. 300 – 1000 killed in action on the US side, maybe 7-10K on the Northern side. In the end the U.S. forces broke the siege and didn’t get overrun. There was a massive bombing campaign in support of it, new technology was used dropping sensors to detect motion around the U.S. locations, but who won? Does that matter? General Westmoreland claimed victory at Khe Sanh since it wasn’t a repeat of what the French had suffered at Dien Bien Phu when they were overrun. In July the Marines evacuated the outpost taking anything valuable and destroying the rest. We went on to establish another combat base at another location in the area. Imagine those that fought at Khe Sanh, the end result seemed senseless, like a colossal waste of resources and lives.
John Adkins was from Washington County, Ohio, a Corporal in the U.S. Army, died at Khe Sanh 1 month before his 25th birthday. I wanted to find details on one life of a soldier that died at Khe Sanh. I didn’t come upon something readily to give you a sense for who that person was. But I did find a site that lists 600-something killed in action at Khe Sanh by name and it has pictures. It is sobering indeed. https://www.honorstates.org/index.php?page=features&tid=1409&view=all
Click there and just look at a few pictures. For people who weren’t regarded as heroes, for people who sacrificed in a somewhat senseless war. May we never forget. May we fight to not let those types of things happen again. Many could say Iraq became our generations Vietnam. Let us remember and be grateful.