Five decades ago I entered the US Army not because I wanted to protect our right of free speech or any other right we as Americans enjoy. I did not become a soldier to protect my family or my homeland. I became a United States Army soldier because it was the law that I must serve.

Two years after becoming a soldier and after completing extensive training I was ordered to Vietnam. Once arriving in Vietnam, it didn’t take me a long time to recognize the insanity of the war and the misguided decisions of our country’s leaders. I certainly wasn’t doing much to protect our freedom of speech or any other right that I had unknowingly benefited from in my youth. I was there because the law dictated that I was a soldier and the hierarchy of the US Army dictated where I served. No problem, I did my job, worked with others as a cohesive highly skilled military unit and lived through a 365-day tour of duty. I flew back to the United States, was discharged in San Francisco and went back to school at the seasoned age of 22. It took the press to illustrate the insanity of the war. It was not anything we did as soldiers that ended the war.

I don’t remember any airline allowing me to board early. I don’t remember anyone thanking me for my service. I don’t remember being granted a military discount at the lumber yard. I do remember being told not to wear my uniform in public. And I remember the silence that encircled me. No one asked me what I did in the Army. I along with thousands of other veterans had to compartmentalize our years in the service of our country and re-enroll in mainstream America.

I did re-enroll in mainstream America and simply compartmentalized my three years in the U.S. Army. I had not been wounded and I had never heard of post traumatic syndrome so I fortunately had no need to deal with the Veterans Administration until much later in life when being a veteran became a more popular claim.

In all the years since my military duty I have noted that the flagrant flag wavers did not serve in the military. I cannot fully comprehend why those that did not serve in the military feel the need or the responsibility to be determined to point to the flag and join the theme “to make America Great Again”. I cannot speak for all veterans, but my experience does not support the “Again”.

The benefits of being an American have not diminished. I am more than happy that I was born in America and I have benefited from the rights and freedom we enjoy as Americans. However, I am reluctant to say “I am proud to be an American,” now more than ever.

I cannot comprehend the notion that America was “great” and is not now. America has had moments of greatness, but America has a long way to go to be “great” and we don’t need to wave a flag or pledge allegiance to march towards greatness. We need to quietly do what is right consistently and do so without measuring it against what benefits us the most.

Marc Villa


CW3 US Army 1968-1971