Veterans: Oh, You're Back?

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When Jim Sloan, 23, returned to Harvard after service as an Army sergeant in Viet Nam, he was laughingly labeled "the resident fascist pig of Adams House." Richard Parish, 22, was an Air Cav rifleman when a chunk of Communist shrapnel ripped his right shoulder to the joint; back in Michigan as a civilian, the Negro high school graduate was unable to pass physical examinations at either Cadillac Motors or Detroit Edison, and reluctantly began drawing disability pay. First Lieut. Leo Glover, 26, won a Silver Star and a Purple Heart near the DMZ as a Marine air controller, then turned his aerial expertise into a job as a flight engineer for Trans World Airlines in Kansas City, Mo.—but nearly busted up a cocktail lounge one night when some drunks refused to be quiet during a televised speech by General William Westmoreland.

Sloan, Parish and Glover are three of some 1,700,000 veterans who have made the painful transition from service to civilian life since the Viet Nam war became a major military effort in 1964. This year, at least 900,000 more will muster out—all of them to face an adjustment problem unique among U.S. war vets. The men who fought in World Wars I and II and Korea found gratitude and the traditional heroes' welcome awaiting them at home; the Vietvet returns with no fanfare to a nation whose response ranges from a noncommittal "Oh, you're back?" to—in some cases—downright hostility.

Great Disparity. Even in terms of Government-financed veterans' benefits, the Vietvet makes out worse than his counterparts of earlier wars. Whereas the World War II vet who wanted to further his education got full tuition, fees and book costs plus $75-a-month living allowance, the returnee from Viet Nam can expect a maximum of only $130 a month to cover everything. Currently, there are 450,000 returnees receiving G.I. schooling benefits. They enjoy slightly brighter job prospects than did their predecessors, largely because the U.S. economy is stronger than ever before. Last year the U.S. Employment Service found jobs for 1,200,000 veterans—many fresh home from Viet Nam; only 2.4% of all Vietvets are unemployed (v. 3.9% for the population as a whole).

Still, there is a great disparity on the employment scale between white and Negro returnees, best reflected by the fact that only 18% of whites re-enlist v. 46% of Negroes. Clearly, many Negroes feel that military service gives them greater opportunity (coupled with less discrimination) than civilian life.

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