Thursday, May 8, 2008

Vietnam vet visits WHS

The Vietnam War ended in 1975, but remains controversial today. Ms. Lopez's students have written essays expressing their stances - namely, was it worth it? Yesterday, those students got a whole new perspective on that era.
Mr. Tom Lyons, father of senior Maura Lyons and the class of 2007's Sarah Lyons, spoke to Lopez's students about his tour of Vietnam back in the late 60s and his many years as part of a community of veterans. A few years after coming home, he co-created a memorial for his fellow South Boston natives who died in the war, and later worked for the Veterans Administration. These days, he hopes to dispel the many rumors, myths, and misconceptions about the war spread over the years by history books, Hollywood, and the media.
"What I talk about does not glorify the war," Lyons assured the class at his speech's start.
Ironically, he even described himself as antiwar, i.e. supporting a war as a last resort.
"To this day, I don't think Iraq is where we should have gone - Saddam was contained. We lost a lot with that first march into Iraq - not just lives but our stature," he said about a current conflict strikingly similar to an historical one.
That said, he continues to advocate the support of current and former troops - "You can hate the war but love the warrior," as he puts it.
Unfortunately, many Vietnam vets did not exactly receive love from the members of the antiwar movement upon coming home. To some extent, Lyons and his fellow servicemen became victims of the controversy.
"It was a noble war, but it was fought the wrong way," he commented on a war that, according to him, was won on the battlefield, but lost in Washington. He revealed to the class that many, like him, who joined the military to fight the war, did not fully understand why they were going to Vietnam.
"No one has really been able to adequately put down why we sacrificed 50,000 American lives," later adding, "We went in with some false assumptions...I really didn't know much about the domino theory. They didn't tell us that we were going to Vietnam for reasons other than to fight for the South Vietnamese."
He still appears to have a little resentment towards Robert McNamara, the then-Secretary of Defense who receives much of the blame for the mismanagement.
"McNamara knew back in 65 that the war wasn't gonna be won," Lyons said, later supposing that, if he were in Johnson's shoes, Lyons "probably would have wanted to have a Secretary of Defense who was honest enough...It gets back to - as a leader, you're only as good as the people around you."
So, was it worth it? Would Mr. Lyons do it all over again?
"The answer to that is yes," he replied to both of those questions.
"I describe it as my worst nightmare. It was the worst part of my life, but I've made something positive out of it."


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