I actually found Ruckas reasoning that all wars are pretty much the same a bit of an insult to those who fought those wars.
Gulf I lasted a little over six months. Only 258 American troops were killed - and of them only 113 died in actual combat against the enemy.
The first American involvement in Vietnam was in 1955, which means Americans were involved in the conflict for almost 20 years - although the war 'proper' lasted about ten years. Almost 60,000 Americans died during those ten years, nearly 50,000 of those in combat.
Gulf was a conventional conflict in so far that the enemy wore a uniform and marched under a flag. Whilst there were conventional battles with the NVA in Vietnam these became rare once it became clear the NVA couldnt beat the Americans in open conflict. Much of the war was a guerilla war/insurgency involving the Viet Cong.
So, In the Gulf conflict at least you knew who was trying to kill you and how. In vietnam you rarely knew from which way death would come - it could be by an NVA bullet, but it could just as easily be a tripwired explosive, a tiger trap, an innocent looking child wired with explosive, the prostitute you had just been banging whos a VC, a sniper, even a snake bite or maleria - all stuff which hardly, if ever became an issue in the Gulf.
That has an incredible psychological effect on those fighting the conflict. Many books written about Vietnam state that the hardest part of being there wasnt fighting the enemy, it was waiting, wondering and looking over your shoulder constantly wondering who the enemy was and when and how they would strike.
The Gulf was well known as a war largely executed at the push of a button, using cruise missles and stealth bombers etc. There were ground battles of course, but the Iraq army was so outclassed in terms of technology that it was embarassing and meeting your enemy at anything less than several hundred metres was rare.
Vietnam has many famous conflicts in which troops met face to face and hand to hand - Khe-Sahn, Hue, Tet, 'Hamburger Hill' etc - something that never happened in the gulf.
Troops were provided with cheap, unreliable weaponry in Vietnam unsuited to the environment. They took the dependable M14 away from troops. It had its faults - it was somewhat unwieldy for jungle fighting and had a relatively low rate of fire, but it was made out of wood, iron and steel, had a 7.62mm round that made big, fat holes in an enemy, was simple to clean and use, and you could shatter a mans head with the butt of it.
The M14 was replaced with the M16, not because it didnt work but because there was a tendency to supply troops with items made by the lowest bidder. The M16 was a pretty good weapon by 1990, but in 1967 when it became the general issue weapon it jammed, couldnt support its full 20 round load because of weak magazine springs, and rusted due to the humidity. Troops called it the 'poodle shooter' or joked that it was supplied by Mattel (the toy manufacturer). It was impossible to clean, It could take several shots to put a target down for good and if you hit a man with it, it would be the rifle that shattered rather than the man.
In the Gulf they fought war as it should be fought - taking territory and holding it. Vietnam was a war of attrition where the only objective was bodycount. It wasnt rare for troops to take an objective only to be told to immediately withdraw and then be told to retake the same objective days later when the enemy had reoccupied it, only to withdraw again. Tackling objectives with zero strategic importance was also common. This resulted in a general feeling of futility - that nothing the soldier achieved was really worth anything in the long run.
Whilst there was some cynicism about things like oil rights and who would win contracts after the Gulf war was concluded, for the most part Americans were herelded as liberators by the locals and heroes when they came home - they werent ostracised, abused, ignored, denied employment opportunities, spat at or called baby killers as they were with Vietnam.
Drug abuse and its knock on effects has been proven to be rife in Vietnam, and war crimes such as rape and murder (such as at Mai Lai) were more common than they should have been. Neither were notable in the Gulf.
The military in the gulf was a highly trained volunteer army of professional soldiers. The military in Vietnam initially was the same, but the problem with the 12/13 month tour of duty was that there was no way to retain that professionalism - soldiers left and those skills were lost forever, only to be replaced by inexperienced, sometimes unmotivated draftees.
I think it was reknown Vietnam author Tim O'Brien who described the experience of the average Vietnam combat soldiers experience as something like 'long periods of bordom punctuated by brief periods of absolute terror'.
That may be true, but remember that Castle wasnt your average soldier - his experience was pretty much a combination of all of the worst aspects of Vietnam. He was a sniper, he endured time as a POW, he saw war crimes, corruption and drug abuse, he survived massacres and hill top seiges, he worked as a LRRP deep behind enemy lines (I recommend you read the trilogy 'Six Silent Men' if you want a good idea of how dangerous that was).
The Vietnam sequence in this issue was a short one but I think it was a telling and important insight into just one important factor that went into making Castle the man he became - the fear and frustration of not knowing who the enemy was, of the people youre there to protect fearing and hating you, or the idea that to survive you had to become a monster. That wouldnt have happened in the Gulf...
I'm rambling and I could go on much longer, but basically if Frank Castle or Rambo had been Gulf Vets then you would have characters who were shaped by a war in which they were well fed, well equipped, knew who the enemy was, had little fear of booby traps, capture or torture, endured a mercifully short campaign, you could trust the guy next to you to do his job and your allies to support you, had total air superiority, were working in a country where the local population saw them 100% as liberators, where the objectives were well known and the tactics generally sound, where they would rarely meet the enemy let alone fight him hand to hand, and when they returned home they were appreciated by the world, their government and the public for what they did.
And you know what? I also think that it is important in principle that Marvel continues to maintain a character with a strong connection to Vietnam. Fans will always be reminded of the importance and sacrifice of those who fought in WW2 through Captain America. Vietnam is a conflict where far too many have already turned their backs, ignored it and dismissed it as an inconveniant truth, or lambasted any person who had any involvement with it. I would hate to think Marvel are going to do the same.
To reiterate then, Gulf I couldnt have produced Frank Castle as we know him - not his skills, not his experience, not his emotional scars, not his politics, thoughts or feelings.
I wish I'd told Rucka that.