Vietnam Draftees Essay

This essay has a total of 1442 words and 6 pages.

Vietnam Draftees



Should I stay or should I go?
The Vietnam War was the subject matter of many debates during the 1960’s and the 1970’s.
War advocates and anti-war activists voiced their opinions all throughout the nation about
our country’s involvement in Vietnam. People from all walks of life spoke out about the
war, from politicians to hippies, making it clear that everyone had their own view on the
war, although, not everyone agreed with one another on the decisions and outcomes that
were made for our country. Demonstrations and rallies were being held everywhere, from
the White House to the streets, either supporting or protesting America’s involvement in
the Vietnam War. One of the main causes of debate came from the issue of drafting
Americans into the war whether or not they chose to go into battle in Vietnam. People
felt strongly about the issue because those who were drafted were forced to leave behind
whatever future they had planned for themselves to fight for their country. Activists
were against the idea since they felt that American involvement in Vietnam was inadequate
in helping end the war and they felt the United States was involved for the wrong reasons.
Others felt that it was our duty as Americans to serve in the war. Regardless of what
your attitudes were towards the war, many others felt the same way and shared an equal
point of view, therefore, those who strongly followed their beliefs were the ones to speak
out and educate others about their perspectives. Among those who voiced their opinions
were such Americans as Tim O’Brien, an army veteran who served in Vietnam, Spiro T. Agnew,
the vice president to Richard Nixon, and John F. Kerry, also a Vietnam veteran and the
former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. These men all carry different attitudes
towards the subject of drafting and the ethics of complying or evading the draft.
Although each activist supported a different position on the subject, good arguments were
made for either stance.

Tim O’Brien was a Vietnam veteran and an author who wrote about his experiences and
tribulations during the war. In his book, On the Rainy River, he shares his personal
story about the Vietnam draft. O’Brien was among those put into the position of being
called upon by Uncle Sam. On June 17, 1968, he received his draft notice. O’Brien was an
intelligent young man on the road to success when he received the notice. A graduate from
Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, O’Brien was the president of the student body,
summa cum laude of his class, and on his way to a full scholarship grad study in Harvard.
Obviously, he had a bright future ahead of him, but because of the draft, his future had
to be put on hold for his country. O’Brien believed that the achievements he had reached
throughout the first twenty-one years of his life made him “too good” to fight in Vietnam
(900). He implies that it would be a greater loss for someone of his accomplishment and
ambition to be wounded or die in the war. O’Brien had thoughts of running away to avoid
the draft by fleeing to Canada. To him, it seemed like the logical thing to do, but at
the same time, he was afraid of the consequences. “Run, I’d think. Then I’d think,
Impossible. Then a second later I’d think, Run” (901). After much debating, O’Brien
ended up staying in the U.S. and complying with the draft to fight in the war. Despite
the fact that O’Brien decided to go to Vietnam in the end, he didn’t agree with his own
decision. O’Brien states, “I was a coward. I went to war” (910). Although he believed
that he was a coward for failing to go to Canada, O’Brien was a hero to others for
participating in Vietnam.

In a speech given by Spiro T. Agnew on November 20, 1969, he believed that the generation
of young men and women during the 1960’s needed to be educated about the war since a good
population of them were against it. Although Agnew obviously was not in favor of the
demonstrations and movements initiated by the young Americans, he attempted to speak about
their strong points to show them some acknowledgement, in hopes to gain some respect in
return. Agnew stated, “After all, they’re our sons and daughters. They contain in their
numbers many gifted, idealistic, and courageous young men and women” (888). Then, Agnew
goes on to add that there are those few individuals who speak out and exercise their
rights to protest and “openly profess their belief in the efficacy of violence in a
democratic society” (888). Agnew continues by mentioning those men who burned their draft
cards and fled the country to escape the war. “They are not our heroes. Many of our
heroes will not be coming home…” (888). Agnew believed that those who decided to leave
the country were the real cowards whereas O’Brien believed that he was a coward for not
leaving the country. Although I realize that choosing to go to war would be a heroic and
patriotic gesture on my own behalf, I personally feel that it would be more courageous of
myself to flee the country to protest our unnecessary involvement in the war. I would be
giving up my own freedom and my achievements to fight against something that I actually
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