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Freedom Rides, Vietnam, and Social activism among the youths of America have left the 60’s with a very profound effect on our society. Without question, the decade of the 1960’s was one of the most controversial in American History. Throughout this period of social unrest, anti-war attitudes were gaining prevalence in a peace-loving subculture, and individuals began to question certain aspects of governmental policy and authority. This was the decade of peace and war, optimism and despair, cultural turbulence and frustration.

Arguably, no conflict during this era more profoundly affected American societal structure than did the Vietnam war. While an average tour in Vietnam lasted only about one year, the physical, economical, and psychological effects of the war proved so phenomenal that they would remain forever imprinted in the minds of both the American soldiers who fought, and all Americans of military age who feared they would go next. During the course of the Vietnam war more then twenty-six million men came of age to be eligible for the draft, 2.15 million of which were sent to Vietnam. The army assembled for the Vietnam war was significantly younger than any other American army, with the average age of soldiers ranging from seventeen to twenty one.

There were many feelings of animosity towards the war and draft, especially from the soldiers themselves. Corpsman Douglas Anderson represented popular feelings of animosity towards the war, especially regarding the youngest of the soldiers fighting when he was quoted saying: “if your parents signed certain kinds of papers, you could get over there and die at seventeen.”
As evidenced by his words, it was not simply a matter of going over there at the age of seventeen to fight for one’s country. Rather, it was a matter of leaving behind the safety and security of the home to which you were accustomed, with little expectation of returning. At a time when these ‘kids’ should have been enjoying, they were burdened with the trepidation of being drafted.

Those who were not chosen by the draft to fight overseas were left back to fight on the home front in an effort to bring about the American soldiers return home. College students played a large role in the anti-war movement, as the soldiers fighting in the war were their peers to whom they could closely relate their predicaments. During this time many colleges shut down completely while students and faculty voiced their opinions. One of the most influential battles encountered by the anti war movement occurred on May 4, 1970 at Kent State university. Under orders to control the passionate protesters at the school, the National guard opened fire on the protesters wounding 15 and killing 4. Though these students were not directly involved with the war, they clearly felt the effects of standing up for their rights.

For many unfortunate young men who were chosen to fight, the mental and emotional hardships began the in the life-altering moment that they received their draft notices.

They war effected all Americans greatly, and influenced our country getting involved in other foreign wars. But the effects were not felt more then by the soldiers fighting. Many questioned whether they were the lucky ones because they survived, or if there friends who had not survived were the lucky ones because they did not have to deal with the traumatic effects of the war.


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