Veterans and Me (5)

As a result of my years of working with Marines and soldiers on the battlefield, I have an abiding reverence for veterans. I know that they were willing to give up their lives for their fellow combatants, including me. And I was ready to die for them. There is no stronger bond.

When veterans congregate, there is among us an unexpressed but deeply felt fondness. Nothing needs be said. We recognize one another as if by instinct. We are blood brothers together. It was the spilling of blood that brought us together.

Vietnam veterans are especially close to my heart. By chance, I have not, after the war, come across any men I served beside on the battlefield. It doesn’t matter. Vietnam vets and I share not only memories of the battlefield but also scenes of rejection when we came back to the world (the U.S.). We remember the dishonor our fellow Americans subjected us to after we risked our lives in defense of the U.S. and each other. We remember being called butchers and baby killers. We remember being spat upon. We remember our decades of silence about being Vietnam veterans.

And the civilians I served with in-country after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam in 1973 were all veterans. The 43 guys in the NSA covert operation in Vietnam from 1973 until the fall of Saigon in 1975 were all former military, as was I. We shared the bond veterans feel. And each of us was willing to sacrifice his life to save the others.

More tomorrow.

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