Heyward Hunter Macdonald was commissioned a lieutenant of Artillery in the U.S. Army upon graduation from University of Virginia in 1964. He served as an ordinance officer in Vietnam at a First Infantry Division fire base during his 1966-67 tour of duty.
Dr. Macdonald (he holds a doctorate from the Virginia Theological Seminary), a life member of Vietnam Veterans of America, has worked through the VA to help veterans come to terms with their issues resulting from their Vietnam War service. He traveled with his eldest son to Vietnam for a month in 1999 where he was “welcomed by old adversaries, literally with open arms,” he notes in Everything Changed: The Vietnam War and American Culture, Lessons Not Learned (Amazon Digital Services, 141 pp., $8.99, Kindle).
This philosophical book is small, but contains huge ideas. It is arranged into nine sections, beginning with a chapter called “The Wakening of Memory,” followed by “Our Culture and the Path to War.” If our national leaders read this book and took it to heart, perhaps we could avoid past mistakes in the future. I have my doubts, but wish it could be so.
Macdonald makes a great case for learning from our past sins, such as Manifest Destiny, and thinking of ourselves as that shining city on the hill that God has singled out to lead the world to eternal truth.
He covers some of the ground that gets trod heavily upon in most books about the war, fiction and nonfiction. REMF’s, for example, come in for discussion. John Wayne is given some space. Gene Autry comes in for a name check. We also get Agent Orange, CCR’s “Running through the Jungle” and the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Outta This Place,” and there is an extended section about the sins of Jane Fonda.
The author quotes a bumper sticker, “Jane Fonda American Traitor Bitch,” and says he understands that anger. I do not, especially after all this time. Perhaps toward Gen. Westmoreland, and maybe even toward John Wayne, but Jane Fonda? Wayne’s silly movie, The Green Berets, did more harm, I believe.
If you are looking for a short book, (I read it in one sitting), that delineates all of the things America should have learned from the Vietnam War but did not, this is the one for you. It is clearly written, compact, and a very quick read. I enjoyed it.