We are proud to be veterans of the Vietnam War. We are also just as proud to be members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. We have heard and read comments from Vietnam veterans that believed the media and the left-wing peace activists created a stigma that sullied Vietnam veterans and therefore brings shame to all of those who served in Vietnam. When we came home some of us joined the peace groups marching in the streets. Many more just wanted to fit back in and continue where we left off. For those our shame was not what we did in Vietnam but what we didn’t do when we returned. We didn’t speak out!

For many of us the apathy is gone. We have joined groups like Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Veterans United for Truth. We are raising awareness about the inadequate benefits for our veterans. We are supporting independent psychological veteran help groups because the government is unable to keep up with the need for veterans suffering with PTSD. We are holding the Veterans Administration accountable for their promise to provide better treatment for the veterans by bringing them to court. And yes, we are speaking out about the unjust war in Iraq. Time and time again our military is asked to put their lives and their family’s welfare on the line by doing multiple tours of duty. We are at the forefront of the movement to support the troops and bring an end to the senseless in Iraq.

So who were the people marching in the Veterans Day parades throughout the country? They were the groups that believe they and they only hold patriotism at the highest level. They do not question the atrocities of war and they do not insist on oversight of veterans’ rights. They march to the beat of the commander in chief because to do anything else would be unpatriotic. This Veterans Day they donned their uniforms, hats, badges, pins and head for the Veterans Day parades. For they make the decisions as to who march in their parades and what they will wear. Groups like the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and the Veterans for Peace were asked to provide military or veteran identification should they want to join in the parade. But there were no “politics,” no symbols, banners or other clothing identifying these groups. Non-military members of these groups were also not allowed to participate in the parade. Many of these members are the wives of veterans who watched their friends and loved ones die, be maimed or come back suffering from the effects of being exposed to Agent Orange or depleted uranium. All while nonveterans groups like the Boy Scouts, Sea Cadets and what other groups they determined would make their parade look “patriotic” were encouraged to join in and march along side the “patriarchs.”

So what do we, the non-marchers promote? We promote a national commitment to provide every needed resource to help veterans and their families fully recover from the wounds of war. We provide a contact and referral system to connect veterans with community resources, with outreach and follow-up specifically directed to our comrades suffering with the many physical and psychological wounds of war and/or encountering legal, health and financial problems as part of their return home. We will raise awareness among our fellow citizens about the needs of veterans by educating Americans about their sacred duty to those who have suffered on our behalf. We will join with like-minded citizens to petition our representatives for legislation that will meet the just needs of veterans. We will strive to end our government’s pursuit of senseless military adventures.

The California Central Coast Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War will be “Honoring the Warrior, Not the War.”