President Obama has sided with those who argue that returning Vietnam veterans were spat on by ungrateful opponents of that long-ago war. In a Memorial Day address at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the president didn't literally endorse the spitting scenario, but he gave it figurative support.
Addressing Vietnam vets, he said: "You were often blamed for a war you didn't start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor. You were sometimes blamed for misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised. You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened."
Even with the qualifiers "often" and "sometimes," Obama's comments ratified a meme that entered the popular consciousness decades ago. As Jack Shafer described it in an article in Slate in 2007:
"As with most urban myths, the details of the spat-upon vets vary slightly from telling to telling, while the basic story remains the same. The protester almost always ambushes the soldier in an airport (not uncommonly the San Francisco airport), after he's just flown back to the states from Asia. The soiled soldier either slinks away or does nothing."