THE Vietnam war has for Americans been antithetical. Patriotic American theses for war - belief in the invincibility of the United States abroad, in the pure rightness of its causes, pride in military technology - were turned upside down during a decade of fighting when many American sociological tenets were also inverted. It has taken a long time for the Vietnam veterans to find their place back home. The bureaucracy at first put out its welcome in the measure of meager public and political support. Young men and women had given their lives. Others, injured in body and psyche, returned to a society that itself did not know how to cope with them. It took a long time for a fitting memorial to those veterans to be erected in Washington - the long dark marble ribbon of names.
Last weekend the Vietnam Veterans of America, an organization of 35,000 members formed in 1978, turned another American war convention on its head - that war is chiefly a male undertaking. The Vietnam Veterans elected a woman, Mary Stout, a former Army surgical nurse, as its president.
Too much can be made of the first woman this and the first woman that. Yet women go to war, too. They find themselves in combat. They serve the war effort at home. Their lives as daughter, girlfriend, wife, mother, are affected by war, too.
The costs of war know no gender.
Let's hear it for Mary Stout!