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Vietnam 50 years later: Can we finally turn the page?
President Obama urges the nation to bring closure to a divisive conflict. Are we ready?
 
President Obama and the first lady embrace a woman who lost her husband in the Vietnam War during the first memorial event in the 13-year Vietnam 50th Anniversary Commemoration Program.
President Obama and the first lady embrace a woman who lost her husband in the Vietnam War during the first memorial event in the 13-year Vietnam 50th Anniversary Commemoration Program.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama, the first commander-in-chief too young to have fought in the Vietnam War, marked Memorial Day by inaugurating a national commemoration of the conflict 50 years after it started. Obama told a gathering at the Vietnam Memorial that the "denigrating" of returning Vietnam veterans was "a national shame, a disgrace" that needs to be rectified, and became the first president to speak and lay a wreath at the Vietnam Memorial since 1993. The commemoration Obama began will last 13 years, as long as the war itself, and involve the federal government reaching out to and thanking Vietnam vets in their hometowns. Is America finally reaching closure on Vietnam?

This is a big step toward closure: Obama's national mea culpa was "decidedly different" than the widely ignored "solemn boilerplate" from most presidents on Memorial Day, says Kathleen Hennessey in the Los Angeles Times. It was also "decades delayed." Still, maybe it took a post-boomer president to credibly call for "closure and healing," especially one from the party long-shaped by the Vietnam-era anti-war movement. Regardless, the most important thing Obama said was "thank you" and "welcome home" to vets "who've been home for 37 years."
"On Memorial Day, Obama talks of closure for wars old and new"

C'mon. You can't get closure through dishonesty: "Keeping faith with our Vietnam veterans is important," says Taylor Marsh at her blog, but this 50th anniversary thing is totally "concocted." Fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy merely escalated our involvement in Vietnam years after Dwight Eisenhower got us involved there in the first place. Glazing over Eisenhower's role is "historical malpractice." Sadly, Obama is sacrificing the truth to political convenience.
"A 50-year Vietnam 'anniversary' forgetting Eisenhower"

We can best remember the past by not repeating it: For those of us who served in Vietnam, the best memorial would be to stop spilling "American blood and treasure... on a losing effort" in Afghanistan, says retired Lt. Col. Brian F. Sullivan in the Quincy, Mass., Patriot Ledger. Of course, that doesn't mean we can't belatedly "make amends and recognize the sacrifices" made by our unfairly maligned Vietnam vets. Because if we can do those things, "maybe then, just maybe, the 50th anniversary can provide sufficient reflection for us all to move forward towards a better future."
"It don't mean nothin'"

 

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