On Aug. 10, 1964, the U.S. Congress took a vote that changed the destiny not only of a generation, but also of our nation. On that day 50 years ago, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, basically giving President Johnson permission to “take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force — in the defense of its (South Vietnam) freedom” and to punish the “rebels” of North Vietnam who had attacked a U.S. Navy ship in international waters, an overt and direct act of war.

Only we now know it never really happened.

The results: A military failure with the Communist forces of North Vietnam defeating our abandoned “allies” in the South; as many as 3 million Vietnamese men, women and children killed; a nation torn apart; a U.S. government that many feel had betrayed our trust and created an atmosphere of cynicism and distrust that has radicalized and paralyzed our political system ever since. More than 300,000 members of our armed forces were permanently scarred, either physically and/or emotionally; and 58,286 young Americans were killed and memorialized on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

Rather being welcomed home and thanked for their service as is rightfully done with our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the veterans on the Vietnam War more often were “welcomed home” with apathy, anger and outright hostility. It is time to begin to change that, and an online petition (petitions.moveon.org/sign/welcome-home-vietnam) is a step in that direction.

Kevin J. ClarkHallowell