|Posted on May 7, 2014 at 10:20 AM|
As a veteran I want to express my gratitude for the Veteran's Appreciation Day coming up this Saturday. This is our fourth annual celebration and promises to be the best one yet! I am exceedingly grateful for the people of Alpha Ministries' Church in the Woods for their willingness to host this event and their support shown to all veterans and their families. For some it may seem like just another BBQ at Freedom Ranch, but for the vets this kind of event is anything but casual. In fact, many Vietnam vets in particular will experience a wide range of emotions as the memories flood their minds. Each year I struggle to maintain my own composure while planning and organizing this event. That's why I am especially grateful for the folks who volunteer to make this event successful.
Our overall goal for this event is to do just what it says it is...appreciation for our vets. Whether it is the few remaining WW II vets, the Korean vets, the Vietnam vets, Desert Storm vets, or Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) vets anyone who has served our country by taking the oath and putting on the uniform of our armed forces is deserving of our deepest respect and appreciation. They all wrote a blank check to America for the amount of up to and including their very lives. They vowed to protect and uphold the Constitution of this nation against all enemies, domestic or foreign and willingly gave up their own individual liberties to protect the freedoms of all our citizens. For their service to our country we honor them and want to tell them how much we appreciate their own personal sacrifices for the good of all.
As a Vietnam veteran I find this kind of event to be somewhat bitter-sweet. Almost fifty years ago when Vietnam vets began coming home from their tour in country, America was in state of social chaos and confusion. One of the tragic consequences of such turmoil was the inability to appreciate the sacrifices made by our military men and women. In fact, the anti-war movement sweeping the nation chose to attack rather than support the troops in their efforts to end the war. Many if not the majority of returning warriors were immediately stereotyped by the media as "war criminals" and "baby killers" who were "crazy" at best and "drug addicted savages" at worst. There were no parades or ceremonies honoring the personal sacrifices these men and women made to serve their country. Due to the military rotation of troops it was not unusual for a man to be in combat one day and at home in the "world" in less than a week. I flew my last mission in Vietnam under enemy fire on a Saturday of August 1971 and was at my parent's home the following Wednesday night.
The welcome many vets received when they got home was hostile and degrading. Leaving a war zone half way across the world they were filled with joy and excitement that they had made it out alive. But when they got back to their own country they found themselves in a strange place. Things were not the same as when they left a few years earlier. It's hard to describe, but the world seemed to have turned upside down and the stereotype of a crazy Vietnam vet seemed more likely true since we had changed as well. Expectations of honor, respect, appreciation, thanks, and support were quickly replaced by a simple hope for indifference. Many of us began to deny to others and, after a while, to ourselves that we had ever been in Vietnam. Most would simply plunge headlong into pursuing higher education and/or careers following a strict code of silence concerning our war time experience. After 40+ years that silence is now being broken as the Vietnam veterans are leading the nation in welcoming home the next generation of American warriors. To all our veterans we say thank you for your honorable service to your country. We appreciate your sacrifice and honor you as true American heroes.
Categories: Veterans Appreciation