I am a Civil Engineer these days, but in 1970 I was a medic with the Fourth Infantry in Vietnam. I went to college after I came home, and people didn't understand why I went into a field other than medicine. By the time I spent a year patching up my friends in the war, the last thing I wanted for a career was medicine. Sometimes I wonder how life would have been if I had stayed in the medical field, but I never regretted my decision to leave it behind. In the Engineering world, I have occasion to explain to people the differences between building a project one way versus the other. I tell them, "We never build the same project two ways so we never know how it would be if we had made the other choice."

I have that same opinion about America's involvement in Vietnam. I have been home for a lot of years now. During the first twenty or so, I put a lot of effort into forgetting about it. In recent years, I have spent a lot of time with the memories and have learned to accept what I did and did not do. I think about how wrong the people are that say we were wrong. Any Vietnam Veteran knows how difficult the war was. They also know that our actions prevented a lot more unpleasant experiences for the South Vietnamese. The proof is in the violence that came to them in the 1975 invasion.

So what would have happened in Vietnam if we had never gone there in the first place? What if every one of us had gone to Canada? There are a lot of questions that we can now ask. No one knows what would have happened if we had not gone because we did go. My opinion is that a lot of things would have been very different if we had not gone. That part of the world would have suffered inhumanities on a scale comparable to the Holocaust. I'm not talking about just Vietnam but that entire portion of the world. We were forced to back off and let the combined North Vietnamese/Russian effort smash South Vietnam. They were too powerful for such a small country. They were concerned enough about the United States to stop where they did. Had we not shown our concern for the world during the time we did spend in Vietnam it would have been much worse.

Our efforts in Vietnam did accomplish a lot of good for our fellow human beings on the other side of the world. There will always be those who deny it, and we will never have proof of what would have happened without us. We did go and the world can only speculate what would have happened if we had not. I believe that those of us who went and saw and lived with the situation have little to doubt about how things would have been without us.

All Vietnam Veterans and the families of Vietnam Veterans that have paid the price of the war should be very proud. The Veterans were very brave to go and fight in a war so far away with all the discouragement at home. The world should never forget that THEY fought in the most difficult war. I hope we all realize that they did the right thing. Just because their success was something that didn't happen there is no reason to deny the benefit. I hope we can leave the bad feelings behind and again do what we can to improve the world for the future generations.

Copyright © 1997 By Dennis L. Hodo, All Rights Reserved