2017-09-21 / Editorial

Vietnam vets paid deserved attention

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

As a legislator, I have made it a priority to work with Vietnam veterans. In fact, one of the finest honors of my legislative career was being awarded an honorary life membership in Vietnam Veterans of America in recognition of my efforts.

PBS stations are airing “The Vietnam War,” an 18- hour documentary by filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (known for “The Civil War” and “Baseball”). It is shown in 10 segments, a new one airing each evening at 8 p.m. Burns and Novick worked on the film for more than a decade, or about the same amount of the time that America was involved in Vietnam.

Many local Vietnam veterans still feel unthanked for their service to the country and struggle with their exposure to the surreal environment of a tropical war of attrition. Plus, when the war ended, there was not much understanding of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its enduring effects, and many veterans did not come home to a supportive community. Some have lived for decades with the burden of untreated PTSD. Older Vietnam vets in particular have among the highest rates of adult suicide.

Local veterans also served in Thailand and Laos – not technically part of the official war at that time – and their sacrifices are especially at risk of being forgotten. Also, many thousands of women served in Vietnam, on hospital ships, on fire bases and very much in the hot zone. Women veterans often do not ‘wear’ their veterans pride in the same way that men do and can be especially unlikely to be included in recognition ceremonies. To address this, the Sanford VFW is planning a special women veterans recognition event at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28. This is for women veterans of all eras. If you or someone you love would like to be recognized, please contact me and I will connect you with Post Service Officer Jim Bachelder.

With the Vietnam War documentary now airing, the Veterans Administration is preparing for an increase in Vietnam veterans seeking mental health services. Mental health professionals agree it could trigger PTSD and depression. Locally, Joe Armstrong is the president of our Vietnam Veterans of America chapter, the only one in Maine, which is based right here in Biddeford. He welcomes your outreach at cwomaine@metrocast.net. And if I can help you in any way, please call my cell at 423-8260.

If you have been watching the documentary, you will probably agree it is very powerful. It presents the perspectives of all of the sides, including both North Vietnam and South Vietnam, as well as American troops and American anti-war protestors. In its own way, I hope the film creates conversations and new opportunities for healing.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Outside the legislature, he is chair of the Biddeford Solid Waste Commission. Marty also hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show, available on Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or facebook.com/repgrohman.

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