Thursday and Friday, I attended gatherings to celebrate Vietnam War Veterans Day. I was with my brothers who had fought for their country in Vietnam. I was moved to tears again and again, most often by the words, “Thank you. And welcome home.”
Those were the words I so yearned to hear when I first got back to the states in May 1975, after the fall of Saigon. I was physically ill with amoebic dysentery and pneumonia and emotionally damaged from the unspeakable events I’d lived through. I needed comfort and care. I found none.
For decades I didn’t speak of my thirteen years on and off in Vietnam. It was a subject of shame. The attitude of the American public started to change three or four years ago. People born after the war ended wanted to know what happened and why. The first welcome home celebration for Vietnam veterans was four years ago.
I saw so many guys I knew at the two celebrations this week. The speakers talked openly about how we were greeted when we came home from the war—the crowds screaming “butcher’ and “baby killer” at us, spitting on us. They apologized to us for the way we were treated. And they used those sacred words that still make me cry: “Thank you. And welcome home.”