My family and Diane were excited and as happy as could be that I was home safely. I was warmly welcomed and embraced by all. I even think my dad may have been a little bit proud of me. Later on, a friend told me that whenever Dad had the opportunity, he would say to his friends or co-workers that “he had a boy over there.” One of the few times in my life that I ever saw my dad with a tear in his eye was when he, along with my mother and Diane, picked me up at the airport, one last time, to bring me home for good. Years later, my father-in-law told me that once I completed my service, he no longer had any reservations about me marrying Diane. I was very, very fortunate to have a supportive family.
But sadly, some of the other veterans were not so fortunate. In many parts of the U.S., homecoming was not a welcoming event. On the contrary, many of the veterans faced disrespect and disdain. The war protesters and much of the general public were unable to or refused to separate their negative feelings about the war from the warriors. Many veterans were cruelly and harshly criticized for their service, even by some of the veterans from previous wars! As a result, many veterans faced a difficult, problematic transition back to “The World.”
Vietnam Veterans of America Inc.’s founding principle:
“Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”
I was never ashamed of nor regretted my service, but at the same time, I never felt that I could show or express my pride in it either. We all “served,” but it seemed to be something best not openly discussed. Many vets still feel that way today. Many never spoke of their military experiences until years later, if at all. Today it appears that those horrific negative attitudes directed at the Vietnam veterans may have gradually diminished over time.
I ask that all who read this story and have an opportunity to welcome home an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran or any other future war veteran to please do so sincerely and enthusiastically.