What Am I Doing
"Some GI's, " wrote Cathleen Cordova, who worked as a club director in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969, "say this war could have, and should have, been won by now if it weren't for the politicians meddling in military matters. Others are opposed to the war and don't think we should be here.... Actually, the majority of the guys aren't concerned with issues, moral judgments or politics. Most of them are young guys who didn't want to come here, and they just want to get out in one piece. "
Any impression that those who fought in Vietnam were in universal agreement with its justification or its conduct is false. In the early stages of the war, many GIs were imbued with a sense of mission, of purpose: to fight communism. For others, going off to war was more a young man's adventure than any ideological crusade trumpeted by a generation of our nation's leaders.
Just as the war had its phases—limited presence, build-up, retrenchment, phased withdrawal—so, to a great extent, did the opinions of those who fought in it. The chronological ordering of the letters in this chapter reveal, with some exceptions, a similar progression of sentiment. An initial let's-stop-communism-and‐ make-the-world-safe-for-democracy naïveté was fueled by the cold war and the idealism engendered by President John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. " But as the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" proved to be dim at best, this feeling gave way for many to a sense of frustration and expressions of bitterness that maybe the____________________