Vietnam Memorial: By Invitation Only?

Three Soldiers statue by Frederic Hart at the Vietnam Memorial. Image: National Park Service.

Today the President spoke at the Vietnam Memorial. We haven’t seen his speech. Hopefully he didn’t say, as he has done of OEF and OIF casualties, that they died for him. He can think it all he wants, but we hope he didn’t say it.

Likewise, a news source usually more friendly to his opposition has suggested that this was intended to be a campaign rally.

President Obama will become the third president to salute the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, bringing his reelection year effort to woo vets to the “Wall” on Memorial Day, May 28.  ….

Obama, the first lady and Jill Biden have stepped up efforts to help veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars jobs [no verb in the original -ed.] and medical attention and there have been several recent stories of how the Obama-Biden campaign is targeting veterans for support in the fall election.

We hope that claim that it was a campaign rally is an error. That’s not what Memorial Day is about. We didn’t ask about Jack Tobin’s politics or his Uncle Richard’s, and we’d hope the politicians — and the damned reporters who see everything through a prism of party politics — could put a sock in it for the day.

Vietnam Veterans should be gratified that the President — any President — spoke at their memorial on this solemn occasion. It doesn’t matter if you voted for the other guy, this is the Head of State that your countrymen chose, and he has other things he could be doing.

Interestingly, while Reagan and Clinton spoke at the Vietnam Memorial during their terms (it was dedicated during Reagan’s presidency), neither Bush ever did. Curious. Both have been very generous with time and support to veterans after their retirement, so it wasn’t some generalized antipathy to vets.

Maybe it was the ever-expanding security cocoon that limits public access to the president, and the president’s access to the public. We heard from an SF veteran, who is incidentally a committed supporter of the President and his party (which makes him a bit of a rarity in SF vet circles, but well, he’s as used to being outnumbered as any of us) that he and his party could not get to the wall. Apparently the security perimeter was set up to exclude anyone who didn’t have a ticket — which was not mentioned in the Washington Post’s article promoting the event. No idea where one was supposed to get a ticket. Or why the ones with the tickets rated higher than, you know, an actual Vietnam combat veteran who had specific absent friends to “visit” in that place.

But then the Vietnam guys are used to that. Cue the pictures of wannabees in BDUs with forty-eleven stupid pins on their hats… in 5, 4, 3, 2….