In a March 16, 1976, interview with The Washington Post, Jimmy Carter discussed the Vietnam war and the reasons he would pardon draft evaders if elected President. He said:
In the area of the country where I live, defecting from military service is almost unheard of. Most of the young people in my section of Georgia are quite poor. They didn't know where Sweden was, they didn't know how to get to Canada, they didn't have enough money to hide in college. They thought the war was wrong. They preferred to stay at home, but still they went to Vietnam. A substantial disproportion of them were black . . . They've never been recognized for their service to the country. They've often been despised, characterized as criminals, they were never heroes, and I feel a very great appreciation to them. They were extraordinarily heroic, serving their country in great danger, even if they didn't have the appreciation of their fellow citizens and even if they thought the war was wrong.
It's very difficult for me to equate what they did with what the young people did who left the country. So for a long time it was hard for me to address the question in objective fashion, but I think it's time to get the Vietnam war over with.
I don't have the desire to punish anyone. I'd just like to tell the young folks who did defect to come home, with no requirement that you serve in some humanitarian capacity or anything. Just come back home, the whole thing's over.