Vietnam War Veterans

Frequently Asked Questions about Vietnam War Veterans

There are several misconceptions and assumptions about Vietnam War veterans. This collection of frequently asked questions may help to straighten out any confusion.

How Many Vietnam War Veterans are Still Alive?

A: In 2020, there are fewer than 850,000 veterans who served in Vietnam still alive. This is down from the 2.7 million service members who were on active duty in Vietnam.

How Old are Vietnam War Veterans?

A: In 2015, the US Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that the average age of living Vietnam War veterans was 68 years old. This statistic has obviously shifted over time. The youngest Vietnam War veterans were born in 1950.

Who Qualifies for Vietnam Veteran Status?

A: There are differences in definition between the Department of Defense (and other government departments) and what is generally recognized by the public and veteran communities. For instance, the government makes no distinction between a ‘Vietnam vet’ (one who served in the territory or naval territory of Vietnam) and a ‘Vietnam-era vet’ (one who served in the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard during the time of the Vietnam War). Officially, all are considered ‘Vietnam-era vets.’ However, the Department of Veteran Affairs does recognize a distinction between those who served in Vietnamese territory and those who didn’t. Veterans who served in the territory known as the Republic of Vietnam are eligible for VA programs such as Vet Centers (also known as Readjustment Counseling Services). American servicemen serving in Vietnam between January 1962 and May 1975 are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides, including Agent Orange. This exposure impacts applications for VA benefits, which other Vietnam-era veterans do not have taken into consideration.

It is worth heeding that significant numbers of people claim to have served in Vietnam when they did not. According to some veterans’ sources, between 9 and 12 million people falsely claim to be Vietnam veterans.

Myths and Realities About Vietnam War Veterans

Due to pro-and anti-military misinformation circulating during the war period, many misconceptions about the service members who went to Southeast Asia. 

  • Vietnam and the draft: two-thirds of the servicemen in Vietnam were volunteers. Approximately 70% of fatalities were service members who volunteered rather than being drafted.
  • The average age of service members: from data about service members killed in Vietnam, the average age of an infantryman serving in Vietnam was 22, not 19, as is thought by some.
  • The intensity of fighting in Vietnam: the average US infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat a year, a massive increase over the 40 days of combat the average infantryman in the South Pacific saw in WW2. This increase was in part due to the additional mobility the helicopter conferred upon ground forces.

Drug use among Vietnam vets: Performance drugs such as dextroamphetamine were routinely supplied to Vietnam service members. Between 1966 and 1969 alone, over 225 million tablets, mainly Dexedrine, were distributed to US forces. Over 5% of troops on deployment for over a year became heavy users. Withdrawal increased irritation to levels dangerous for those around the users.

Together We Served: Telling Vietnam War Veterans’ Stories

Together We Served is the Internet’s largest veteran locator tool. Our 2 million American war and peacetime veteran members represent recent American military history: not just Vietnam, but WW2, Korea, the Global War on Terrorism, and more. It’s free to create an account, and users can fill out their profiles with details such as badges and medals received throughout their service. Completed service pages can be shared with loved ones. Those less confident with computers can have their family members or carers assist, with a Help Guide available to guide others in interpreting preserved military documentation and other military effects.

Together We Served prides itself on offering this free service to all American veterans, Vietnam War veterans among them. Go to our website so you can learn how members can use our tools to make new friends, support applications for health care and other benefits, and connect with old brothers and sisters in arms.

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Tags: 2.7 million service members who were on active duty in Vietnam, Agent Orange, Air Force, Air Force Veterans, Coast Guard Veterans, Department of Defense, Global War on Terror, Korea, Marine Corps, Marine Veterans, Navy Veterans, Readjustment Counseling Services, the Global War on Terrorism, Together We Served, United States Military, US infantryman, US Veterans, Vet Centers, Veterans, Vietnam War, Vietnam War veterans, WW2

19 Comments

  1. LTC Bill

    I was born in 1944 and many of my high school and collage ROTC friends served in Viet Nam

    So the youngest being born in 1950 is a miscalculation

    Reply
    • CW3 Peck

      I was born in 1935 and served with the 1st Cav Div in 1965. I don’t think I was the oldest member of the 15th Med Bn, and I’m sure there were many others in the 1st Cav that were older than me.

      Reply
  2. robert manfre

    correction to article, I was born in 1951, and 18 when I went to Nam, in1970 , and am now 70yrs old, one of the 850,000 survivors !!

    Reply
  3. Joe Walls

    I was born in June, 1946. Went to Vietnam September 1966. (20 yrs old) Came home in October 1967.
    Infantry medic. 2/22nd 4th Infantry. Wounded in June 1967.

    Reply
  4. E. Wayne Fussnecker

    I was born June 1952 and went to Vietnam (Bien Hoa) in May 1972 and returned in Feb 1973

    Reply
    • Patrick M. Kaye

      Not all Vietnam Veterans served “in country” during the war. Like many USAF veterans, I served in combat support units as a munitions specialist for 2.5 years straight. As a ‘bomb builder’ with B-52s in Kadena, Okinawa for 18 months and F4E Phantom fighters in Korat, Thailand for a year, I earned the right to wear the Republic of Vietnam and Vietnam Service ribbons, the latter with 3 oak clusters.

      Reply
      • Patrick M. Kaye

        oh, and we were also exposed to Agent Orange that was used extensively around all the Air Bases in Thailand.

        Reply
  5. Larry

    I was born Sept.1950 (Healthy) enlisted in the Marine Corps in Dec.1968 (Healthy). Arrived in Vietnam Sept.1969 (Healthy). Departed Vietnam Sept.1970, arrived Camp Pendleton Calf. Separation Center and discharged. I’m currently 3 months away from turning 72 and 100% P/T disabled (13) service connected (9) are Agent Orange related and (4) combat related. I sleep standing UP..

    Reply
  6. Joseph DiPippa Sr

    Happy 4th for all my Vet friends especially VietNam USAF 1969/1972 – Nam 71/72 .if you guys and gals need some help please get to VA ASAP dont let it get away Dont give up/Never give up Jimmy V

    Reply
  7. lou palfy

    I was drafted at 19 years old. The third day of induction, I took an extra year to get a school and MOS that helped count towards my 5 year pipefitter apprenticeship.
    And I did meet a couple of guy’s that the court made to join because of some missdeed. I have read that people did not believe this happened. I beg to differ.

    Reply
    • Patrick M. Kaye

      It was common for courts where I grew up in Northern California to give guys the choice of jail or go in the Army gor their crimrs…I knew a few guts this happened to…

      Reply
  8. Ernest M Duckworth JR

    I was born in 1944. I was 23 upon my arrival in October of 1967, and I was the ‘OLD MAN’ to my platoon. I was there one year and 19 days.

    Reply
  9. Fred Brannan

    Fred Brannan, I was born January 1946. Volunteered for the draft in 1966. Went to the1st Cav in Vietnam in March of 1967, received head wounds in a firefight and came home in October of 1967!!

    Reply
  10. Charles W Jones

    I was born on Dec. 1949 i went to vietnam in 1968

    Reply
  11. william terry

    I was born 1947 boot camp 1967 P.I. Nam 1968-1969 Bravo Co. 7th. Engineer

    Reply
  12. Bruce A. Kochy, SFC USA Ret

    I would think that the youngest would have been born around 1954 or 1955 since the combat ground forces were withdrawn in March 1973 so subtracting 18 from 1973 that would be 1955 as the possible youngest to have served in Vietnam!

    Reply
  13. Gary Johnson

    I was born June 1951, went to basic in June 68 at 17 and was in Nam in 69, one week before turning 18.

    Reply
  14. Robert Strickler

    I was born November 1949, graduated high school on June 14, 1968, on June 15, 1968 was in the US Navy Seabee’s . Went to Vietnam Quang Tri 1969.

    Reply
  15. Jeff “Fuzzy” Fozard

    I was born in 1948. Enlisted in the Army in 1967. Became an air traffic controller and got to Nam in Mar 68. Stayed there 2yrs. ETS’d May 70. Re-enlisted Sep 70 for Nam again. Finally left in Sep 71. Soc Trang, Can Tho, Bear Cat, Phu Hiep, and Phu Bai. Flight school after Nam and became a Scout pilot. “Real Cav”. Retired as a CW4 after 25 yrs.

    Reply

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