Thank You and Welcome Home

Another post from long ago that warrants updating:

For years, when I returned from Vietnam with the troops through San Francisco, we were met by crowds who yelled “butcher” and “baby killer” at us. They spat on us. I was shamed to the depths of my soul, not for the troops who had fought bravely and followed commands even at the risk of theirs lives, but for America. Our people, the people we fought for, were blaming us for what they saw as an unjust war. I was sickened.

For literally decades, I never mentioned my Vietnam experience. My Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) was worsened by my silence. No one wanted to talk about Vietnam. The war was shameful, and I was one of the perpetrators.

But Vietnam was bursting my seams. It dominated my writing. No one would publish my stories and novels. Vietnam was anathema.

Then, six or seven years ago, I was invited to something I’d never heard of: a welcome home celebration for Vietnam vets. I was suspicious. At first, I decided not to attend. But then my curiosity got the better of me. When I got there, I found a room full of happy people greeting us Vietnam veterans. They hugged me and said, “Thank you for your service. And welcome home.”

I cried.

My Vietnam writings are being published now. I have four novels and seventeen short stories in print. These days many people thank me for my service. But I still choke up when I hear “Thank you for your service. And welcome home.” Those were words I yearned for. I grieve that so many of my comrades in arms did not live long enough to hear them.

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