- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2000

April 30, 2000 marks the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. It means little to Vietnam veterans. To be an anniversary of something, a date has to have a personal significance.
Like most Vietnam veterans, I completed my combat tour years before April 30, 1975, and felt no more connected to the fall of Saigon than I did to the recent earthquakes in Turkey. Also, like most other veterans, I was busy getting on with my life.
During the eight years between my combat tour and the official end of the war I had worked my way through college with the help of the G.I. Bill, then attended a computer technical school for a year. By April of 1975 I had been employed six months as a computer programmer in a four-man startup company.
I rarely watched television during college and during those early work years, so the Television War passed me by. But I had not escaped the Vietnam War entirely since coming home.
I had taken a college entrance interview in my dress green Marine uniform just days after returning home. I sat proudly in front of the dean with my crewcut, newly-sewn sergeant's chevrons, and two rows of combat ribbons. After citing how the college accepted students from all over the world, the dean ended the interview with, "Frankly, Tom, you just wouldn't fit in here."
A year later a freshman English class co-ed at another college commented on the military's wanton defoliation of anything green in Vietnam.
"There must be a dozen shades of green in the Vietnamese countryside," I said.
"You've been there?" she asked.
"Sure, I just got back last year. I was in the Marines."
"Why did you go?"
"I was doing my job."
The next class she sat four desks away. In fact, since we only had a dozen students in the class, there was a four desk demilitarized zone all around me for the rest of the course.
After graduating second in my class in computer school, I found it difficult to get job interviews. In one interview at an insurance company, a middle-aged manager described how he did everything he could to get his son out of the draft. Soon after I removed "Vietnam veteran" from my resume, and got a job.
Three Vietnam War anniversaries are etched in my mind. On July 2, 1967, the four understrength 125-man rifle companies in my battalion suffered 84 dead and 190 wounded. That battle became known simply as Two July.
Four days later, we ambushed a column of North Vietnamese after they crossed the Ben Hai River into South Vietnam. We inflicted 200 enemy dead in the all-night battle, with only one of our own killed. Six July was not only a demonstration of the American military's resilience and fighting spirit, but also a reminder that no battle is won without a price. I was one of four men who carried our machine-gunner's body out of the DMZ the mile back to the landing zone.
My third anniversary is Halloween, Oct. 31, the night I came home. I remember the perplexed look on my mother's face when I walked into the living room in my crumpled uniform; she thinking how brazen this trick-or-treater was to walk right in without knocking
Every Vietnam veteran holds his own memorable dates of the Vietnam War, but April 30 is not one of them.

Thomas P. Evans is a computer consultant from Shelton, Conn.

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