The song “Goodnight Saigon” by Billy Joel was written nearly 10 years after the war was over, yet it was one of the first songs recognizing the soldiers who served in the war. Joel avoided the draft by falsely claiming that he was his mother’s only support and received a temporary deferment. Later files in his draft board were mysteriously burned, Joel’s nearly included. When his deferment was over, the lottery system began and missed Joel’s draft number by 1 spot. Joel was granted reprieve, and he felt a combination of guilt and luck.
Many of Joel’s friends went on to serve in Vietnam, and when they returned home they were not welcome. There are many instances where veterans recall being spat on, and yelled at when they arrived at the airport in the United States. Veterans were given advice to deny ever serving in the war to avoid conflicts with citizens who did not support what the United States did in Vietnam.
Billy Joel is known for his ability to paint a picture in the minds of his listeners. He is well known for the ballads he created such as “Piano Man”, where the song tells a story about a bar and the lives of all the people in the bar. Joel used this ability to convey to the listener the lives of Vietnam Veterans. Joel believed that the general public did not know the soldier’s side to the story and he took it upon himself to show them in his song. Joel ultimately dodged the draft by 1 draft number spot, and felt guilty for this. He understood that many soldiers were merely unlucky in being chosen.
Today there have been proper welcome home parties for veterans who served in Vietnam. In Wallingford, CT they held an unofficial welcome home for Vietnam veterans in 2014. The veterans were recognized for their service and were able to see other members of this brotherhood that was established over 30 years ago.