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In answer to your question: No, having served in VIetnam does not confer automatic "hero" status on An American, in my opinion. NOr does having DIED in VIetnam, for that matter.
My father is considered by many historians a hero for the actions that led to his death. (PDF) He was awarded, posthumously, a Bronze Star and the usual Purple Heart.
As it happens, he enlisted -- Marines are not drafted. As it also happens, his letters home to my mother prove that several weeks prior to his death he came to believe the war a great folly and evil, and determined to leave the Marines on finishing his tour of duty. The greatest plans of mice and men...
I neither condemn nor laud the men who fought in Vietnam for their actions in that war -- excepting, of course, those who committed war crimes. I do applaud those who, on returning home, recognised the war's evil and renounced it -- and I condemn those who insisted -- and continue to insist -- it was a "noble" war. Only a blind man or a fool could do that; or worse, a liar.
I do not claim to see into the hearts and minds of men like John McCain; I do not know if he actually believes the bullshit he spews. I only know that it IS bullshit.
As for whether his actions were heroic in Vietnam? Well, he got through a hellish experience, and it takes some sort of heroic resilience to do that, so I applaud that strength. Bravo, John McCain of yesteryear.
But it is the man he is now with whom we are concerned.
And I know he is not a hero now.
If I can't rant, I don't want to be part of your revolution
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