Veterans Protest at the Capitol

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This newspaper article from the New York Times covered a 1971 protest at the Capitol spearheaded by veterans. In this protest, the veterans symbolically threw the medals they had earned from their service in Vietnam at the Capitol, over a makeshift fence erected in anticipation of the march. Despite Nixon’s Vietnamization efforts, a growing number of Vietnam veterans found that they had engaged in a disrespectful loyalty to the government’s agenda. The truth remained that Americans were fighting and dying for a cause that was not their own. At home, Veterans faced disrespect from antiwar protestors while the Vietnam Veterans Against the War gained traction[1]. This protest shocked the American populous given the symbolism of war medals within the military. Antiwar dissent organized by veterans was extremely powerful because they were connected to the war in a way that most could only imagine. Many veterans returned home guilt-ridden and contributed to the antiwar movement, which indicated to the government that it was necessary to remove American forces from Vietnam[2]. For many, it was inspiring and compelling to see the same men who laid their lives on the line in a war display such profound disgust for the war and for them to reject the blood-stained symbols of honor and valiance that they had earned from the establishment. Like Hendrix’s National Anthem protest, veterans found success in protesting ideas and concepts that were symbolic to America’s status as a democracy. The rejection of the military by former military members was unique to the Vietnam era, and this notion was rejected in later antiwar protests.

[1] America in Protest. [Electronic Resource] : Records of Anti-Vietnam War Organizations, The Vietnam Veterans Against the War. 2010. Archives Unbound.

[2] Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History. 5th ed. Vol. 2. Seagull. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.