Vietnam War Intangibles…It’s Time We Ask!

‘It’s time we asked’ is the title given to a project developed by ‘us brothers’, Michael D. and Stephen D. Moberly, both combat infantry soldiers who served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970 respectively. Conceptually, the project evolved from far too many instances wherein we witnessed, i.e., heard parents, grandparents, wives, children, loved one’s, and friends of Vietnam War combat veterans, upon return to their ‘home of record’, utter the telling phrase ’he never talks about it’, to which, our consistent response is, and will always be, ‘did you ever ask’?

We admit the actual percentage is unknown…but, suspect it is significant, that is, the number of Vietnam War combat veterans, who, upon returning home, received relatively few genuine – sincere inquiries regarding their experiences. Anecdotally, we have identified common rationalizations – justifications why loved ones frequently applied insofar as exhibiting a reluctance to and/or lack of sufficient interest to engage a combat veteran and merely ask to one or a variant of the following, i.e.,

  • I always intended (wanted) to, but felt it best to wait for ‘him’ to broach the subject first, i.e., exhibit cues of receptivity.
  • I don’t know what or how to ask, or start an inquiry, absent some ‘signal’ they want to talk about it.
  • I just assumed he didn’t want to talk about it because he hasn’t said anything about his experiences thus far.
  • I don’t want him to know I participated in protests against the Vietnam War and I am concerned those perspectives will be conveyed, regardless of how principled they may have been.

The ‘absence of inquiry’…generally, and perhaps obviously, arose within familial circumstances as well, and, in some instances remain variously embedded as an unspoken impasses, e.g., why…

  • one party (the combat veteran) may have elected not to talk about it, and
  • the other party (family member, loved one, friend, etc.) may have elected not to ask!

Too, the largely dispirited reception for returning Vietnam War combat veterans, on the whole, and, for a variety of reasons, aside from individual family treatments, was substantially less generous compared to veterans returning from generational wars that preceding Vietnam.

Us brothers hold no illusions our ‘it’s time we ask’ initiative will ever manifest as an emotional – memory antidote to reconciling those circumstances of the past. Us brothers, do suspect, for some combat veterans, their indifferent ‘home coming’ treatment contributed to their inclination for silence and anonymity, i.e., ‘he never talks about it’, which was far too often interpreted as ‘he doesn’t want to talk about it’.

So, for many Vietnam War veterans returning home, their muted reception remains dispiritedly confusing, as does the still occasionally heard phrase, ‘but, the Vietnam War was different, it was unpopular’. To the contrary, us brothers still can’t quite figure out what a ‘popular war’ is.

Such inattention, however it was intended or rationalized at the time, especially by individuals one could legitimately presume to have had a personal interest and responsibility to ask, was routinely and in numerous instances remains variously translated by (Vietnam War) combat veterans particularly, as apathy, disrespect, or having succumbed to the ample anti-war rhetoric which was a consistent feature of the news, providing content to public – family discourse.

Us brothers suspect as well, some of the inattention manifested as an absence to much needed (at will, informal) path to – emotional outlet for reconciling…

  • what they had done.
  • what they had seen, and the
  • physical-emotional endurance and resilience integral to – necessary for indeterminate combat conditions.

This, and other similar posts represent some of Mr. Moberly’s writing about his experiences in Vietnam as a combat soldier serving with the 173d Airborne Brigade in 1969.

Michael D. Moberly March 30, 2016  St. Louis  [email protected]  ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!


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