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Ivan Star Comes Out: Water protectors experienced raw trauma

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: dakota access pipeline, ivan star comes out, native sun news, veterans, warns

Ivan F. Star Comes Out

World War II and Korean Veterans voiced their disdain for us Vietnam vets
By Ivan F. Star Comes Out
Native Sun News Today Columnist

I was touched by a young attorney’s discussion on how some of his colleagues felt a “raw” sense of defeat in the wake of the recent forced evacuation of their camp at Standing Rock. My apologies, but I’m not sure which camp is which. I was there only once on December 5, 2016, among the thousands of veterans who went there to give support.

As a Vietnam War veteran, I experienced this “raw” sense of defeat for several reasons. Trauma after trauma shattered my 19-year-old mind and soul. The violence I had to witness and do dismantled my worldview and most certainly killed my innocence. Being raised by morally sound women in my family, hurting others was not in my book.

North Vietnam was trying to reunify their country and we were sent there to stop them. We fought (and died), with only half the nation supporting us, against Soviet-backed soldiers. We fought a political war, “arm-chaired” from the comfort of Washington offices. We certainly weren’t fighting for oil, rubber maybe. Essentially, we fought to keep each other alive so we could all come home.

Then upon returning to the comfort and safety of home, my group was abruptly degraded and vilified by Euro-American public war protestors. They told us we had no business being there, spat on us, and called us disparaging names. WWII and Korean War veterans voiced their disdain for us because we lost the war. They called us “pot heads” and “drug-crazed.”

The onslaught was devastating. Eventually, the realization that, as a soldier, I did not lose that war materialized. It was the federal government’s bungling that lost it. The older veterans didn’t understand that we fought a war that was different from theirs in terms of the politics behind it. They fought and died for a worthy national cause while in Vietnam, we had each other.

Consequently, because I could not see the “big picture,” I acquired a despairing outlook. Although things have improved personally, I am still not able to find genuine pride in having fought that war. I am still struggling with the overwhelming guilt of having survived when so many others did not.

Anyway, the trash incident is typical. They did the same thing in 1981 at a camp in the He Sapa. Although we cleaned up and buried trash in a large pit, the authorities came in after we moved, dug it all up, spread it out, and called in their media. They killed someone’s dog and made it look like we did it. They are deviously adept at this kind of activity.

Water protectors must understand that you have accomplished a greater purpose long before this recent evacuation, which is merely a bump in our long and difficult road in this country. You participated in an event that is greater than our human ability to comprehend. Now, we must remain optimistic and continually search for answers and in that way the resistance is continued.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: World War II and Korean Veterans voiced their disdain for us Vietnam vets

(Ivan F. Star Comes Out can be reached at PO Box 147, Oglala, SD 57764; 605-867-2448 or via email at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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