Although America has been divided in support for our various wars, we have been supportive of the warriors of all those wars, save one. No veteran has been as reviled and neglected as have the veterans of the Vietnam War. I once had a prominent politician turn his back on me in the middle of a conversation because I was a Vietnam veteran in uniform and a camera was directed at us. That neglect by Congress continues to this day.

Some time ago I visited the battlefields of Vietnam, many of which were littered with statues of dead and surrendering American soldiers, testimonials to our “defeat.” Certainly, it is true that to the victor go the spoils, but it is also true that the American soldier was never defeated on any significant battlefield in Vietnam – an unprecedented military achievement. Our defeat was at the hands of the fascist left in our courtrooms, classrooms, cloakrooms and newsrooms: cowardly media-phobic politicians, an irresponsible, dishonest media and other cowards and spoiled brats and professors from Berkeley to Harvard.

Living with the scars of war is difficult, for some unbearable, but all veterans suffer. The Vietnam veteran suffered physically as much, perhaps more, than any veteran of the past century. But no veteran has suffered the mental agony of that veteran. The thing that makes Vietnam so intolerable is what the elite have done to dishonor the source of those scars, to intensify the pain of the Vietnam veteran and destroy their unselfish and honorable legacy. They opened a gash in his psyche and then rubbed salt in it. The media narrative of the Vietnam warrior slandered one of the most noble warriors in our history.

Look at the facts. The average infantryman in the Pacific in World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. His counterpart in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year. Amputation or crippling wounds to the lower extremities were 300 percent higher than in WWII and 70 percent higher than Korea. Multiple amputations occurred at the rate of 18.4 percent, compared to 5.7 percent in WWII. Seventy-five thousand Vietnam vets were severely disabled.

Above our magnificent grunts, the aviation accomplishments in Vietnam are unprecedented. In World War II, aircraft losses were 16 percent, in Vietnam 43 percent. I read that in WWII some pilots completed tours after 25 missions at an average of four hours per mission, or a total of 100 hours! In Vietnam, 100 hours was an average month for many, and 25 missions an average week.

We see horrifying suicide rates among today’s warriors, yet the Vietnam veteran, who saw as much or more combat than any warrior ever, after the living through the media calumny of his service and sacrifice, had a lower suicide rate than his civilian counterpart.

The Vietnam veterans not only distinguished themselves in combat, but they came home and became model citizens. They were the best-educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat; 79 percent had a high school education or better. The Vietnam veterans’ unemployment rate, personal income, drug use and incarceration rate are more positive than the same non-veteran cohort. And, as a tribute to their patriotism, despite their shoddy treatment, over 90 percent are glad they served.

But not even the fascist left could guarantee total defeat. The American soldier still found victory – in humanitarianism. Vietnam may be the only war we ever fought in which American soldiers added to their heroism an unmatched level of humanitarianism. And the humanitarianism took place during the heat of the battle. The GI fixed as he fought; he cured and educated and built in the middle of the battle schools, orphanages, hospitals, roads, and he vaccinated thousand and cured previously disastrous disease. He truly cared for, and about, those people. What other army has ever done that? Humanitarianism was America’s great victory in Vietnam.

Spearheading the humanitarian efforts were the air ambulance crews, called Dust Off, the most dangerous of all aviation operations. About one-third of all Dust Off crew members became casualties, and the loss of air ambulances was 3.3 times that of all other types of helicopter missions. The Dust Off crew members, who made up a small percentage of the helicopter crewmen in Vietnam, suffered a disproportionately high percentage of the deaths. Dust Off flew some 500,000 missions and rescued over 900,000 souls – men, women, children, enemy as well as friendly – and set survival records unmatched in the annals of warfare. Although one in 10 GIs was wounded, less than 1 percent of those who survived the first 24 hours, died – thanks to Dust Off. As an example of a typical Dust Off accomplishment, one unit of 40 men, with an average of only three of six assigned helicopters flyable, in 10 months evacuated over 21,000 patients, while sustaining 26 Purple Hearts.

Medal of Honor recipient Gen. Patrick Brady tells the inspiring, miraculous story of his days as a Dust Off air ambulance pilot in Vietnam. Get his reissued book, autographed: “Dead Men Flying: Victory in Viet Nam”

Gen. Creighton Abrams, supreme commander of all forces in Vietnam, singled out the Dust Off crews as the prototype of the Vietnam warrior: “A special word about the Dust Offs. … Courage above and beyond the call of duty was sort of routine to them. It was a daily thing, part of the way they lived. That’s the great part, and it meant so much to every last man who served there. Whether he ever got hurt or not, he knew Dust Off was there. It was a great thing for our people.” Gen. William Westmoreland, Abrams predecessor, also singled out the Dust Off crews for special praise. No units better highlighted the courage and humanitarianism of the warriors of Vietnam than the pilots, medics and grunts of the Dust Off crews who represented every segment of our country. And no units were more revered.

As I saw the cement forms of fallen GIs’ bodies, it occurred to me that Vietnam may be the only country that hosted a war we fought where there are no national memorials to the U.S. warriors. We have a Wall for the dead but nothing to honor the nobility of the veterans. Many Vietnam veterans have tried to counter the media narrative, the movies and books, which depicted the Vietnam veteran as a deranged baby killer. I wrote a book on the humanitarian heroism of that war, and many others sought to tell the truth about the noble warriors of Vietnam — to little avail. The media narrative survives to this day.

In May of 2015, I noticed an article in a military magazine that listed the individuals and unit/groups that had been awarded a Congressional Gold Medal (CGM). I was amazed to find that no unit or group from Vietnam had been awarded this honor. Most were from World War II, but Korea was included. Several aviation units were honored – the blacks of the Tuskegee Airmen, the women of the Women Air Force Service Pilots and the American Fighter Aces from all wars. (I recalled a golf outing when Mike Novosell, a fellow Dust Off pilot and Medal of Honor recipient, and I were playing golf with a very famous fighter pilot ace, much celebrated for having flown 100 combat missions. Between us, Mike and I had over 5,000 combat missions! Not unusual for a couple of Dust Off crewmen.)

When I compared the considerable accomplishments of the aviation crew members with the Dust Off crews, it was clear to me that the Dust Off crewmen should be a no-brainer for the CGM. We are in the midst of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and what could be more fitting. Once the CGM was awarded to Dust Off, the door would be open for many other deserving units in Vietnam.

With the support of Sen. John Cornyn and every major American veterans organization, S.2268 was introduced in the Senate in 2015, as was H.R.5299, to award a CGM to the Dust Off Crews of Vietnam, the most representative and revered of the great warriors who served there. After a year and a half, needing 281 cosponsors in the House and 66 in the Senate, the 114th Congress got six cosponsors in the House and nine in the Senate! Yet they still had the time, and got the votes for a CGM, for the Filipino veterans of World War II. The 114th Congress, not unlike the congressman who turned his back on me, turned their back on the Vietnam veteran again.

The number of veterans in Congress has dropped from nearly three-fourths after Vietnam to less than 20 percent today, a decline, I believe, that has negatively affected America. We have a force structure that, perhaps more so than at any time in our history, is over-stressing the troops. We have witnessed in horror the treatment of veterans, mostly from Vietnam, in VA hospitals. The last Congress had time to honor Filipinos (surely worthy), mostly foreign, over Dust Off, all American, with a CGM. Something is not right.

New bills – H.R.2885 and S.1338 – to award a CGM to the Dust Off Crews in Vietnam have been reintroduced into the current Congress. One can only hope that this Congress will see fit to honor some of the most remarkable warriors we have ever produced. And I hope all you Vietnam veterans out there will stand up, fight one more battle, and hold them accountable.

Medal of Honor recipient Gen. Patrick Brady tells the inspiring, miraculous story of his days as a Dust Off air ambulance pilot in Vietnam. Get his reissued book, autographed: “Dead Men Flying: Victory in Viet Nam”

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