Say these words today to every veteran you know.
When I came back to the world (the U.S.) after the fall of Saigon, I so yearned to hear those words. Returning from earlier trips I’d been call a baby killer and a butcher. Young people spat on me. It sickened my soul.
I came home in May 1975 a sick man with amoebic dysentery, hearing damaged from shelling during the attack on Saigon, and pneumonia brought on by inadequate diet, sleep deprivation, and muscle fatigue. The worst was Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. I had top secret codeword-plus clearances, so I couldn’t go for therapy—I would have lost my job. My wife and the children were in Massachusetts at her father’s house. She refused to return to Maryland until I got our house back. We’d leased it to another family until 1976, when our tour in Vietnam was due to end. She and the children finally came back the following July. So I was left to cope with my nightmares, irrational rages, and flash backs by myself. It was the lowest point in my life.
For decades, I never spoke of my thirteen years on and off in Vietnam. I was ashamed for myself and for my country. Four years ago I heard those yearned-for words for the first time. I wept.
So talk to your veterans today. Tell them you’re grateful for their sacrifices. Let them know you’re glad they got back still alive. Use those sacred words: “Thank you. And welcome home.”