It’s Graduation Season – Whatever Happened To The Class of ’65?


Paying Homage to a Graduate for a Job Well Done! 

This Sunday, we went with our daughter and two of our teenaged grandchildren to a high school graduation party to honor an outstanding senior from our church family whose parents have every right to be very proud of her scholastic accomplishments, God-given talents and exemplary citizenship skills like: honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility, and courage.  She is entitled to hold her head high because she worked hard and has earned this privilege.  She is one of a select few young people these days who has survived and even thrived despite our badly broken world and need for positive and productive role models.  She aspires to be a civil engineer and leaves home to go out into the world on her own for college in just a short two months.  We wish her much continued success.

Reflecting Back to my Graduating Class of 1965 

Yes, this graduation party for this young prospering person drove me to reflect backwards 52 years to 1965–to my high school days, my friends, our talents and skills, and to our world and aspirations for life when we were 17 and 18 and graduating from high school.

Looking at the changes in our culture, I can readily see

Where our world and society during the last 35 years of the 20th century was definitely experiencing growing pains.  There was:

  • Widespread civil unrest
  • Women were leaving their homes and children to become part of the professional workforce
  • People were unhappy about “an unnecessary war that we didn’t belong in.”
  • There were equal rights movements;
  • More sexual freedom and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Draft card and flag burning demonstrations;
  • Socially acceptable drug use was on the rise;
  • There was rioting in the streets, sit-ins to fight racism and other inequalities;
  • College kids shooting other college kids on campuses.
  • And, yes, the Selective Service Act of May 18, 1917, was active.  Kids straight out of high school were drafted and within a few short weeks after graduation sent to Asia as soldiers to fight a war that many Americans didn’t understand.

Today’s youth are in the midst of a culture that includes:

  • Different family structures; many are broken or more dysfunctional;
  • Increased lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender freedoms have some youth confused
  • Sedentary, isolated youth have become obese because of their fast-paced, fast foods lifestyles and addictions to today’s electronic devices;
  • A society that promotes materialism where youth are taught by example to measure their successes and happiness in life by how much stuff they have;
  • Alcohol and drug abuse are at crisis levels;
  • Youth having to deal with adult issues far too early in their lives;
  • Bullying, shootings, stabbings, fighting, suicides, and gangs–all begin as early as elementary school;
  • Today’s kids stress over schedules where their time is over-committed–they are involved in competing activities, while feeling the need to succeed in all areas of their lives;
  • Differentiation between “good” and “bad” or “real” and “fake”news is difficult to discern with all the media spins and political mudslinging in today’s world?
  • And, quite frankly, too many Americans are simply overworked, underpaid, and isolated from the rest of the world and from each other, chasing pipe dreams that may never come true, while ignoring other priorities in their lives.

So you decide.  Were our twentieth century times safer, easier, or better than those of teenagers graduating today, or were they just different or equally challenging?

In many respects, all people’s lives are more chaotic, stressful, and plainly more difficult than in the 1960’s just because of readily available media and technology; and more global awareness of, and differences in and interactions between economies, social, and governing cultures.

Yet, still preying heavy on my heart and mind are my family, friends, and fellow classmates who went straight from graduating high school into a war torn country over 8,000 miles away–many of whom had never been away from home before.  And many who didn’t understand and didn’t volunteer to serve, but rather, they were drafted.  And, too many who gave their all only to never return home again.  And all who gave some, including those who suffered physical wounds, loss of sight or limbs, and even their minds and/or peace of minds from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As Civil War Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, first said “War is hell.”

Findings About PTSD From the 2015 National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study

Approximately 271,000 Vietnam theater veterans have current full PTSD plus subthreshold war-zone PTSD, one-third of whom have current major depressive disorder, 42 or more years after the war. These findings underscore the need for mental health services for many decades for veterans with PTSD symptoms.

The following video was made from the song titled “19,” and published in 1985 (20 years after the fighting began in what is now known as the Vietnam War).  It was written by: Paul Hardcastle, William D. Couturie, Michael Gordon Oldfield, and Jonas Mccord.

 The lyrics follow and perfectly depict those times and sentiments: 

In 1965, Vietnam seemed like just another foreign war but it wasn’t . . .
It was different in many ways, as so were those that did the fighting
In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was 26
In Vietnam he was 19
In-in-in Vietnam he was 19
The shooting and fighting of the past two weeks continued today
25 miles west of Saigon
I really wasn’t sure what was going on
Ni-ni-ni 19, 19, ni-19 19In Vietnam the combat soldier typically served
A twelve month tour of duty
But was exposed to hostile fire almost everyday
Ni-ni-ni 19, Ni-ni-ni 19
Hundreds of thousands of men who saw heavy combat
In Vietnam were arrested since discharge
Their arrest rate is almost twice that of non-veterans of the same age
There are no accurate figures of how many of these men
Have been incarcerated
But a Veterans Administration study
Concludes that the greater of vets
Exposure to combat the more likely it could affect his chances
Of being arrested or convictedThis is one legacy of the Vietnam WarAll those who remember the war
They won’t forget what they’ve seen
Destruction of men in their prime
Whose average was 19De-de-destruction
De-de-destruction
War, warDe-de-destruction, wa, wa, war, wa, war, war
De-de-destruction
War, warAfter World War II the men came home together on troop ships
But the Vietnam vet often arrived home within 48 hours of jungle combat
Perhaps the most dramatic difference between
World War II and Vietnam was coming home
None of them received a hero’s welcomeNone of them received a heroes welcome, none of them, none of them
Ne-ne-ne, ne-ne-ne, none of them, none of them, none of them
None of them received a hero’s welcome
None of them received a hero’s welcome

According to a Veteran’s Administration study
Half of the Vietnam combat veterans suffered from what
Psychiatrists call
Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder

Many vets complain of alienation, rage or guilt
Some succumb to suicidal thoughts
Eight to ten years after coming home
Almost eight hundred thousand men are still fighting the Vietnam War

De-de-destruction
Ni-ni-ni 19, 19, ni19 19
Ni-ni-ni 19, 19, ni-19 19

When we came back it was different, everybody wants to know
“How’d it happened to those guys over there?
There’s gotta be something wrong somewhere
We did what we had to do

There’s gotta be something wrong somewhere
People wanted us to be ashamed of what it made us
Dad had no idea what he went to fight and he is now
All we want to do is come home

All we want to do is come home
What did we do it for?
All we want to do is come home
Was it worth it

America’s Wars: U.S. Casualties and Veterans

The table below has information about the total number of service members, battle deaths, and non-mortal woundings in wars from 1775 to 2012; such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I and II, Vietnam, and more.

American Revolution (1775-1783)
Total servicemembers 217,000
Battle deaths 4,435
Nonmortal woundings 6,188
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
Total servicemembers 286,730
Battle deaths 2,260
Nonmortal woundings 4,505
Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898)
Total servicemembers 106,0001
Battle deaths 1,0001
Mexican War (1846-1848)
Total servicemembers 78,718
Battle deaths 1,733
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 11,550
Nonmortal woundings 4,152
Civil War (1861-1865)
Total servicemembers (Union) 2,213,363
Battle deaths (Union) 140,414
Other deaths in service (nontheater) (Union) 224,097
Nonmortal woundings (Union) 281,881
Total servicemembers (Conf.) 1,050,000
Battle deaths (Conf.) 74,524
Other deaths in service (nontheater) (Conf.) 59,2972
Nonmortal woundings (Conf.) unknown
Spanish-American War (1898-1902)
Total servicemembers 306,760
Battle deaths 385
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 2,061
Nonmortal woundings 1,662
World War I (1917-1918)3
Total servicemembers 4,734,991
Battle deaths 53,402
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 63,114
Nonmortal woundings 204,002
Living veterans 0
World War II (1940-1945)3
Total servicemembers 16,112,566
Battle deaths 291,557
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 113,842
Nonmortal woundings 671,846
Living veterans 1,711,0001
Korean War (1950-1953)
Total servicemembers 5,720,000
Serving in-theater 1,789,000
Battle deaths 33,739
Other deaths in service (theater) 2,835
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 17,672
Nonmortal woundings 103,284
Living veterans 2,275,000
Vietnam War (1964-1975)
Total servicemembers 8,744,000
Serving in-theater 3,403,000
Battle deaths 47,434
Other deaths in service (theater) 10,786
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 32,000
Nonmortal woundings 153,303
Living veterans 7,391,0001,6
Gulf War (1990-1991)
Total servicemembers 2,322,000
Serving in-theater 694,550
Battle deaths 148
Other deaths in service (theater) 235
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 1,565
Nonmortal woundings 467
Living veterans 2,244,5831,6
America’s Wars Total (1775–1991)
Military service during war 41,892,128
Battle deaths 651,031
Other deaths in service (theater) 308,800
Other deaths in service (nontheater) 230,254
Nonmortal woundings 1,430,290
Living war veterans 16,962,0004
Living veterans 23,234,000
Global War on Terror 5
Total Servicemembers (Worldwide) (as of Sept. 2011) 1,468,364
Deployed to Iraq (Operation New Dawn) (as of Dec. 31, 2011) 0
Deployed to Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) (as of June 2011) 45,000
Battle Deaths 5,078
Other Deaths (In Theater) 1,378
Non-mortal Woundings 48,104
1. Estimate based upon new population projection methodology.
2. Estimated figure. Does not include 26,000-31,000 who died in Union prisons.
3. Years of U.S. involvement in war.
4. Total will be more than sum of conflicts due to no “end date” established for Persian Gulf War.
5. October 7, 2001 through May 29, 2012 (unless otherwise indicated). Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation New Dawn.
6. Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) estimate, as of 4/09, does not include those still on active duty and may include veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Source: Department of Defense and Veterans Administration.

See also Post-Vietnam Combat Casualties.