Between 1964 and 1975, nearly 3,500,000 men and women served in the United States armed forces in Southeast Asia. Each of them has a story to tell. Each story is unique.
The vast majority of those who served in Vietnam volunteered. Some did so because they believed the military offered opportunities they could not find elsewhere. Some did so because they knew they were likely to be drafted. Some did so because they believed it was important to prevent the spread of communism in Southeast Asia.
They served in Army Special Forces counterinsurgency units deep in the jungle. They served on Navy destroyers providing gunfire support. They served on Marine Corps search and destroy missions. They served in Air Force reconnaissance squadrons. They served on Coast Guard vessels, interdicting enemy supply routes. They served in civilian organizations to provide support to U.S. forces.
1,602 are still missing and unaccounted for.
None returned home unchanged.
O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
Bates, Katharine L. (1904). America the Beautiful.
Beyond being drafted or volunteering, the Vietnam experience varied widely depending on a number of factors.