I understand the sentiments behind Paul Ingevaldson's letter suggesting a boycott of the Super Bowl. He identifies himself as a Vietnam veteran and as most Americans know, we didn't get to bring much out of our Southeast Asia experience except maybe a couple of medals and our personal pride. To compound the anguish, I suspect that, like me, he has spent the intervening years examining and learning the truth about why we were there.

I would like to assure Mr. Ingevaldson and others like him that even though an immeasurable wealth of life, limb and courageous effort was sacrificed on the altar of politician face-saving, it does not change the fact we thought we were doing something good, something honorable. We believed we were defending the cause of liberty.

Here's something to hang our souvenir helmet liners on: if we truly value our intended defense of personal freedom, we can take great satisfaction in knowing that the unique Constitutional right of Americans to express themselves as they wish -- to express themselves even in ways that others find utterly reprehensible -- is still the law of the land. And to protect another's right to do or say something we deplore is the most selfless, most noble cause you or I will ever undertake.

A not unrelated concern pertains to another honorable principle: seeking to understand a diverse point of view. As a group of people whose valiant intentions were misrepresented when we got "back in the world," and recalling our sense of alienation when we were ignored, we should be among the first to listen to the moral imperatives that compel others. Whether veterans watch the Super Bowl or not, they have earned a great deal of respect and their pride can remain intact. Thanks for your service and welcome home.

Richard T. Carlson

Elgin