Failing Our Veterans: The G.I. Bill and the Vietnam Generation

Failing Our Veterans: The G.I. Bill and the Vietnam Generation

Failing Our Veterans: The G.I. Bill and the Vietnam Generation

Failing Our Veterans: The G.I. Bill and the Vietnam Generation

Synopsis

Returning Vietnam veterans had every reason to expect that the government would take care of their readjustment needs in the same way it had done for veterans of both World War II and Korea. But the Vietnam generation soon discovered that their G.I. Bills fell well short of what many of them believed they had earned. Mark Boulton's groundbreaking study provides the first analysis of the legislative debates surrounding the education benefits offered under the Vietnam-era G.I. Bills. Specifically, the book explores why legislators from both ends of the political spectrum failed to provide Vietnam veterans the same generous compensation offered to veterans of previous wars.

Failing Our Veterans should be essential reading to scholars of the Vietnam War, political history, or of social policy. Contemporary lawmakers should heed its historical lessons on how we ought to treat our returning veterans. Indeed, veterans wishing to fully understand their own homecoming experience will find great interest in the book's conclusions.

Excerpt

Those who are guarding freedom for all of us around the
world, should come home to classrooms, not to unemploy
ment lines and checks.

—Senator Ralph W. Yarborough, May 6, 1965

“This is a historic day,” proclaimed Lieutenant Colonel Bui Tin. “This is the first time in more than 100 years that there are no foreign soldiers in our country. Tonight we celebrate.” Tin, acting as a representative of the Communist forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, watched as the last American combat soldiers to leave his country boarded a C-130 transport plane at Tan Son Nhut airbase. For Tin, March 29, 1973, marked a culminating point in a lifelong struggle against foreign influence in Vietnam. Having joined the communist-nationalist movement in 1945, his nearly thirty years of fighting had brought victory against both French and American forces. This was a very special day indeed. Smiling, he told one American serviceman, “Our best wishes for your return,” and expressed an earnest hope that the soldier might one day come back to Vietnam as a tourist. The soldiers looked back with a mixture of bemusement and scorn; some cursed, some spat in Tin’s direction. To the last soldier in line, Master Sergeant Max Beilke, Tin handed a portrait of Ho Chi Minh on a postcard and a bamboo scroll adorned with a painting of a Vietnamese pagoda. Tin informed the assembled journalists that the pagoda represented Vietnamese resilience as, despite its close proximity to Hanoi’s presidential palace, “the B-52s have never been able to destroy it.” Beilke looked at the scroll, proffered a half-hearted acknowledgment, and boarded the plane. Moments later, amidst a cloud of red dust, the roaring engines of the C-130 lifted the . . .

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