Welcoming our veterans home – finally

Nov 3, 2010 by

Welcoming our veterans home – finally

With Veteran’s Day approaching, it’s time to think about an often-neglected theme, which is the “Welcome Home” that many veterans never had. The Vietnam veterans, who fought, died, and suffered — not only on the battlefields of Southeast Asia, but also here at home.

Talk to any group of Vietnam veterans, or even singly, and you find most still feel the pain and ache of no one welcoming them home — with a parade, with open arms, with gratitude and appreciation for their sacrifice and service. It’s an open wound that still smarts today’ and it’s also our national shame.

One Vietnam veteran, John, who served in the Army, was writing about how this indignity still rankles him today — because it goes much deeper than the community at large not welcoming him home. His own family didn’t even!

Here’s his story:

“Time to bring my younger self home, back from combat? To be honored? In PERSON?Photo Credit Beverly and Pack

I’m sure this is a well intended idea – but, I don’t know how to do that, and I’m not even sure I would — if I even could.

Sometimes I think I left that young man there, on purpose, to keep fighting for the freedom of the South Vietnamese — and, yet, I find him deep inside me — still, surviving, struggling, striving for strength! He is the — MY — ultimate Warrior Within — MY Primordial Personhood — the very Soul of Soldiering! He’s ME.

It’s been 38 years – and no one in my family has ever cared enough to even ask about him! I remember finding my Grandmother crying over her kitchen sink one day, weeping out loud that “My Sweet Johnny has been lost to War!” And I recall, thinking “She’s right – I’ll never, ever be the same!” All I could do was hold her and let her cry for awhile…then, we said not a word between us – and I left my hometown behind forever!

A few years ago we did have a big “Welcome Home”-themed Veterans Day Parade dedicated to Vietnam vets – and I couldn’t even get a single family member to attend (when I was one of many being specially honored) — like most, they just want to forget it all, while we are obligated to remember and honor our fallen — too many Americans don’t even want to admit reality, let alone face the facts, or take responsibility in the slightest degree!

In fact, we’re having a long-overdue family reunion, and one family member mentioned that “No one wants to even hear the “V” word! So, I’m going with the “What about those (insert sports team name here)?” and “Is it getting hotter (cooler)?” strategy of only safe-talk…oh, and there’s to be no discussion of politics or religion either – you know, because they are all experts in these subjects – sad, Sad, SAD!

I suspect, after all these years, they are carrying the shame of knowing how they did not even lift a finger to get me the help I needed when I came home – even when I became homeless…and I want so much to tell them there’s no rational reason for any such shame — they didn’t know what to do – no one knew what to do for combat vets back then, we didn’t even have the diagnosis of PTSD back then!

I want them to know I do love them, and that I do take full responsibility for the decisions I’ve made in my life, and how I have forgiven their lack of effort long ago… I want them to know they too paid a price for peace in my voluntarily sacrificing on their behalf — that I went to war to protect their peace – and it’s all O.K., Freedom is not FREE! But, I’m not sure how to say it, or when — I’m not even sure they even care? Ideas anyone? “

 

Photo Credit Beverly and Pack @Flickr

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