Medals of the Vietnam Conflict given to President Ford out of protest.
Ford and the Dodgers – Vietnam
The trope is a familiar one. Returning veterans of the war in Vietnam joining in with the protesters all over the country, trying to bring the war to an end. As a sign of protest, they would take their medals and citations and toss them in the reflecting pool at the Mall in Washington. Sometimes over the fence at the White House as a sign of anger and frustration.
The war was something that people didn’t understand. Unlike WW2 there was no clear-cut definition or goal. It was a war that was being fought mainly to prove that we were willing to fight. The men and women that served often felt like tools and pawns of the power in Washington. Their need to protest to be heard and understood was well-founded. But there is another side to the story.
Many men and women served and did their duty. While they may have had strong feelings about the right or wrong of the war, they fought it. They did their duty when called. Then something amazing happened to them that caused many to speak out though they had remained silent so far.
On September 16, 1974, President Gerald Ford announced that those who had dodged the draft (Draft Dodgers) and avoided service would be allowed to earn clemency by providing an “alternate” service to their country. In exchange for two years of public service, their sins would be forgiven.
A new wave of protests was started, this time not against the war but against the idea that those who illegally avoided fighting would be forgiven. Many veterans sent their medals and citations directly to President Ford himself in protest. The photo above is a collection of just some of the medals that Ford received in protest. In an effort to heal the wounds of the nation, he only created a deeper divide.