Jack Duggan on Honoring Veterans

An interview with speaker Jack Duggan

Veterans Day is celebrated as a national holiday in honor and remembrance of anyone who has served, or is currently serving in any branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is a holiday primarily thought of as a day off, rather than a day to express gratitude for our veterans. Ashland High School is one of the many public schools that is closed on November 11 each year in honor of these veterans. But are we truly honoring and acknowledging those who’ve served our country?

Vietnam Veteran Jack Duggan speaking at the special assembly on November 28th

In a recent assembly, Vietnam War veteran Jack Duggan spoke to Ashland High students about his experience. Duggan enlisted when he was just 19 to serve his country without fully understanding what he was signing up for. “1965. It was a time of Vietnam, a time when we still had a draft, and I knew I’d get drafted.” He spoke honestly of his times spent in the battlefield and the encounters he had, many of which still affect him today. When asked about the 22 veterans that commit suicide every day, Duggan states “we have to do better.” Duggan adds that there should always be respect for those who have served, but he feels there needs to be more public acknowledgment of veterans.

When Vietnam veterans returned home, they were not welcomed with parades or treated like the nation’s heroes. Vietnam was different in that returning soldiers were shunned and disrespected. Duggan explains how the first thing returning Vietnam veterans wanted to do when they came home was disguise themselves and suppress their military background. They grew out their hair in hopes of appearing like a hippie, throwing off the typical soldier stereotype. In their anger about the Vietnam War, Americans failed to recognize how hard the adjustment was for these veterans as they came home. Many soldiers struggled with actions they had to take in war, even after they return home. “They were the enemy. Life in a war zone is cheap, but it doesn’t stay in a war zone when you get home.” says Duggan. Duggan spoke of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) both in regard to his personal experience and that of his fellow veterans.

He expressed that PTSD is another part of being a veteran that should be acknowledged more in today’s society.

While taking the day off on this holiday and saying “thank you for your service” to U.S. Veterans is an acceptable approach, it’s not necessarily enough. It’s important to stay informed on current conflicts and be understanding of what is on the line for active military personnel. “Vote, participate, learn something.” Duggan expressed these are important components of being a productive citizen in our society and working towards valuable change. Duggan closed with, “you’ve got your life ahead of you; you’ve got visions of what you can be and those visions will change, but I hope that you will never forget that you can always work for a more positive world. That is how you can honor veterans.”