Last Saturday, at the invitation of the organizers, I attended Gilchrist’s annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day celebration at Martin’s West in Baltimore. It was a huge gathering that lasted from 8:30 a.m. until after 11:00 that started with a buffet breakfast and included a series of speakers, culminating with Rocky Bleier, a Vietnam veteran and four-time Superbowl champion.
To my surprise and embarrassment, references made by the speakers to events during the Vietnam war and the losses we suffered brought tears to my eyes. Perhaps most moving was the series of salutes and a moment of silence that honored, first, all Vietnam veterans who served during the war, then those who died in the war, those struggling with their own silent battles (e.g., those like me with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury), and finally “the MIA and POWs who never returned home.”
To my surprise, I found among the floor-to-ceiling banners saluting veterans one honoring me. Its presence may explain why so many people there recognized me and addressed me by name. The greeting I heard over and over was “Welcome Home.”
I believe this was the fourth or fifth annual gathering of Vietnam veterans sponsored by Gilchrist. I have attended all of them. I look forward to next year’s meeting.