Well, it’s here again. Veteran’s Day. The day when we’re all supposed to honor our nation’s veterans and thank them for their service. As a veteran myself, I appreciate it when people thank me for my time in uniform, but I didn’t do it for any thanks then or down the road someday. I joined because I felt my country needed me and it was my duty to serve. I still feel that way and I was honored to do so.
We’ve all heard the stories about Vietnam veterans who were jeered or cursed, or worse, when they came home, but I was never greeted by crowds of hippies or peaceniks or whatever they called them in that day harassing me for my service. Not once. For the most part, I was met with silence and indifference. I would see friends from my high school days and they would ask me why they hadn’t seen me in so long, and I would tell them where I had been. The standard answer was “Oh, okay,” and then they wanted to tell me about the new chrome rims they put on their car, or who they were dating, or who they had married while I was gone. It was the same guys doing the same thing in the same neighborhood as it had been when I left, and they didn’t have a clue what was happening on the other side of the world.
The only real hostility I ever experienced was when my dad and my Uncle Burt, both World War II vets, took me to their VFW Post and introduced me around. There were a lot of men welcoming me home and telling me they were glad I was okay, and it all seemed good. Then some drunk sitting at the bar sneered at me and said, “You guys in Vietnam are all a bunch of pussies. I was in a real war, and if I’d have been over there that thing would have been done in two weeks.” Then he threw his beer in my face and all over my uniform. Yeah, welcome home. That fellow was quickly hustled out the door and I don’t think they ever let him back in, but I still remember that night.
I was probably fortunate in that I spent the next couple of years at West Point training cadets how to shoot, so even though I was still in the military, I was stateside and had time to acclimate back to civilian life to a certain degree. I used to go to some reunions with guys from my old unit, but that kind of died off over time. Several years ago, when Terry and I were traveling through Montana, we stopped to visit one of my buddies from those days. We talked about the people we had known and whatever became of them, but really nothing about our experiences over there. What was there to say? We said our goodbyes with a promise to stay in touch and get together sometime, but it never happened and probably never will. We shared a common bond and would have died for each other, but neither of us were the same people we were back then. Life goes on, and that’s a good thing.
Recently Terry and I have been watching the American Veteran series on PBS, documentaries about the experiences of veterans from basic training through their time in the service, their deployments, and their return home. It’s the best series I’ve seen about what it means to be a veteran in this country, and if you get a chance to watch it, I urge you to do so.
In closing, I will just say that we’ve all heard the old saying that if you value your freedom, thank a vet. That’s all well and good, but if you really want to thank a veteran, save your words. You can thank each one of us by being a good citizen, by voting, by standing up to bigotry and hate, by working together to make this country even better than it is. Not by trying to tear it apart because you belong to one political party or the other and think that everyone who is not for you is against you. That’s not what this country is about, and that’s not why millions of Americans have fought and bled and died. You can honor their sacrifice by making it worthwhile.
It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Watching Over Me: A Psychological Thriller, the first book in the heart-racing Crime After Crime series by M K Farrar and M.A. Comley. Trust me, this British crime writing duo know how to keep readers on the edge of their seats from the first page to the last! To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.
Thought For The Day – A veteran, whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve, is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for any amount up to and including their life.