The “Vietnam” Civilian Mentality, By Dominic MancusoBillie Jackson
One thing I have learned since day one of my enlistment, through all 3 trips to the sandbox, and since becoming a Veteran, is that not everyone in this country follows the maxim of “Support our Troops.” As much as I wish the days of the Vietnam era soldiers and Veteran mistreatment-movement was over, I can say from personal experience they are not completely gone, though I do believe we are on the tail end of that mantra. The media does a decent job of not talking about it and most Vets are too prideful to talk about it… but I feel it is something that should be brought to light because I am noticing a slight increase in it. Let us break the pride a little, you and I.
Let me talk about three specific instances where I felt I was deliberately and maliciously targeted by the “Vietnam” treatment. At the Atlanta International Airport, I was spit on by an old hippy. At the local Liberal Arts College, McDaniel in Westminster, Maryland, some millennial douche canoes tried baiting me into a reactionary video by spitting, slapping and insulting me. Finally, the most recent one was at my full-time employment by being called a domestic terrorist and genocidal murderer for my military service. My hope is that in the coming sections I can motivate some other Veterans to come out about their experiences as well and perhaps let them know they are not alone. I also hope to educate the American people about one issue that can lead Veterans to suicide. There is nothing more damaging than feeling alone and shamed.
My first experience happened to me while I was coming home on leave from Afghanistan in 2010. I was granted 2 weeks of leave around the halfway point during my 13 month deployment to that particular combat zone, and one of my first encounters with an American after landing at the airport was to be spit on. A great welcome home, let me tell ya’. I am walking off the aircraft, into the terminal, and I spot a coffee shop… I am in dire need of some caffeine if I am to survive my connecting flight and subsequent car-ride home, so I walk over to place an order. I am in uniform, as we all usually are coming home from a combat zone… I am tired (long flights from Afghanistan, to Kuwait, to Germany, to Atlanta), I am cranky (being in a confined space for so long), and I am slightly numb. Less than two days prior having been out on mission in the remote areas of eastern Afghanistan. A culture shock to all of the comforts and amenities just an airport provides is putting it lightly. As I walk up to place an order, this old guy with long hair, patchy beard, and a stereotypical tie-dye shirt comes walking over and without comment or provocation hacks a big loogy and shoots it on my uniform. Remember where I said I was just on mission 2 days prior? Yea, my mission mindset was still with me and through muscle memory I reacted to the threat. I lunged at the guy, took him to the ground, and put him in side-control. He starts screaming rape, and murder, and “oh god help me”… So I keep him there until airport police arrive and at first they are pretty aggressive toward me (I was, after all, dominating this weak ass-hat)… thankfully one of the employees at the coffee shop told the police what happened, and they let me go and escorted him away. My foremost concern was that my flight home was going to be delayed, so when they asked me if I wanted to press charges, I said “No, I want to go home” and they left it at that. I boarded my plane and finished my trip home. Needless to say, this situation opened my young eyes (21 at the time) to be on guard around people who are supposed to be my countrymen.
My second experience was random and completely out of nowhere. It is now 2015 and I have been out of the Army for 2 years. I often take walks to work life’s little curve balls out of my head and as such I was taking an evening stroll through the town that I live in. It is night and I want to head up to the college where there are some nice overlooks of the surrounding area. Just as I get onto the McDaniel College campus, it is about 1:30am, a short and very fat woman shouts “HEY YOU! Yeah YOU, With the Grunt Style shirt, are you a veteran?” I respond with an inquisitive “Yes, what of it?” She comes huffing and puffing her way over and starts berating me. Calling me everything under the sun from baby killer and rapist, racist to fascist. It was at this time that I realized she had this skinny dude following her, recording this whole encounter on a camcorder. Luckily, I was of sound mind and judgement. Had I had a few drinks in me with what transpired next I might not have been as politically correct. When she spits on me and tries to slap me (easily dodged) I realize she is trying to bait me into a reaction, which her wimpy looking friend would then capture on video, and the video would be conveniently edited to just show me kicking the shit out of her and her weak-ass cameraman. So, I do something that is against my nature, I walk away. The whole time she continues to berate me but I keep walking… I realize in this situation, this is the only way I will “win” and that is to not give them what they want, and expect, from me. To this day, I still do not understand how they knew I would be there. I have never met either before, so my guess is they were looking for anyone to bait for anything…probably something to go along with their liberal arts cultural anthropology or political science degree.
The third experience happened recently, which is what sparked the subject for this blog. It was the day of my company’s Halloween party and some people dressed up. This one hard-core feminist (who does not like me and in reciprocation I disdain her) dressed up as Hilary Clinton; I hear her repeatedly saying “she is my hero, my idol, she is going to be a great president… yadda yadda yadda…” I make it no secret on social media that I have hatred for KILLary, but I make sure not to talk politics with coworkers—it gets me nowhere. She, however, does not follow that mindset. I was walking down the hall, and she stops me and says, “me dressing like Hilary Clinton must really anger you… I bet you hate the idea of a strong independent woman as the President.” I could get in an argument with her, but no matter what happens I will be wrong in my company’s eyes. All she would have to do is say I said something negative about a woman and I would probably be fired. So I tell her, “I am not talking about any of this to you and especially not in the office.” She fires back with, “is it because I am a woman? Is it because you don’t think of me as an equal”… Again with the baiting… people really want to get my reaction on things… I say “No, it is because I do not talk politics with coworkers” and I turn around, and start to walk away. She shouts, “You’re a domestic terrorist for being a gun owner and your military service was in the name of murder and genocide of an innocent people!” I stop, I look back at her, she has this fucked up little grin on her face; kind of like she was thinking “That will get him to respond.” So, I respond… I respond by turning back around, laughing hysterically as I make my way back to my desk. This is what I get for working around a bunch of “creative liberals”. Though, in full disclosure, a majority of the people working at this company are amazing, humble, Americans who do not share her approach to things. It still angered me a good bit that in 2016 this is a “thing” that happens. I talked with a few Veteran friends of mine who also work in offices and they said they have experienced similar things, but dismissed them as I do.
These are only 3 experiences from one Veteran. There are many more out there, as most Vets I have talked to on a one-on-one basis have shared with me similar experiences. But, as I said at the beginning, most Vets are too prideful to admit this happens to them. We don’t want to be seen as needing coddling or affection, and indeed that is not what I am looking for with sharing my experiences. We just wish this “Vietnam mentality” could have died back then… The Vietnam vets I have talked to all have said how terrible it was to come home back then, and when they hear about stuff like this still happening, it is heartbreaking to them. Granted, today is in no way a comparison to the sheer scale that it was done to them. Where I am at with it, if you are against the war, then protest the government…it is your right. Why do people think it is a good idea to try to make the lives of Veterans rougher than they already are? Most Vets already feel out of place around the average civilian, and when situations like these happen it makes a Veteran mildly suspicious of all Americans, thinking “Is this what you all think? Is this how you all view me, but you’re just too nice or too weak to say it in person?” This does not go well for a group of people who already feel like outsiders. With no end in sight toward our ongoing military operations in the Middle East, I fear the public will get more and more angry with the government, and will start to target more and more troops and Veterans as part of their protest, as was done during the Vietnam War.
About the author:
Dominic Mancuso is a US Army Infantry Combat Veteran with 7 1/2 years’ experience in the US Army National Guard. With combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as a peacekeeping tour in Egypt under his belt, he can speak with a level of authority in knowing the plight of the modern American Veteran. In his civilian life he spends as much time with his fellow veterans as possible while also studying military history in an effort to better understand the history of the warrior mentality before, during, and after their years of military service.