“..may America never turn its back again..”

Assumption of Command, one of my favorite milbloggers, had a great story on his site. The story and some of the comments that followed hit a nerve for me. First let me say I found nothing objectionable about the comments. But, they made me remember what it was like for our Vietnam vets. So I felt compelled to add my comments here. Please go to the link first and read the letter posted at Assumption of Command then read my response so it will all make more sense. Make sure you add this great blog to your list of blogs to read often.

Great story. Thank you for sharing her letter. I was in the Corps during Vietnam. Women weren’t in combat but I was at MCRD San Diego for a year. Then Quantico for three years.

In San Diego I saw many young men come into the boot camp scared, timid and eyes downcast, only to graduate and leave with their heads held high and their back ramrod straight. Most of them went to Vietnam after AIT. Other’s went to radio school at San Diego, like me and then shipped out. As I looked at their young faces I wondered how many of them would not be coming home.

The draft was in effect then and most of the guys I met were draftees. Many had served more than one tour. A tour then was 14 months if I am not mistaken.

Then these same guys, mostly draftees came home. They came home to protest marches, flag and draft card burnings. Some had people spit in their face and were called baby killers. If they wore their uniform off base then they had to put up with the insults and glaring stares.

The guys weren’t wanted as suitors for the locals daughters. But those same hypocrites welcomed them into their bars and businesses so they could help them spend their meager paychecks.

Over the course of my tour I saw a change come over the guys as they returned. Many were heavy drinkers. But many were heavy drug users. Some were addicts from the morphine they were given after being shot or injured on the battlefield. Many used pot, morphine, heroine, anything they could get their hands on to dull the atrocities and slaughter they saw.

I don’t think I ever saw a single yellow ribbon anywhere, much less a care package. I am sure as welcome as those packages would have been, every one of those guys who were spit on, called names or made to feel unwelcome would have given anything to see a yellow ribbon on a tree or a car door or bumper.

I don’t mean this as a criticism. I only mean to point out that any gesture, no matter how small is welcome after the horrors of war. You just want to feel that it wasn’t all for nothing. That someone appreciated all you did and gave. That they knew your guts and soul were infected with the disease of war. Assure them that the disease would not always be there.

They wanted to know someone understood why their families threw pillows across their bedroom to wake them up. They wanted to know someone understood their nightmares, their sudden panic at the sound of a backfire. That someone understood their irritability and short attention spans. They wanted to know about hope.

Hope that they would be normal again. That they would be able to work again, love and be loved. Hope that the nightmares would end and they didn’t have the sweats all their life.

They wanted to be forgiven for surviving when their friends and buddies were blown apart and bled to death at their sides. They wanted to be forgiven for having two good arms and legs when their buddies lay in hospitals with none. They wanted to know that, most of all they could learn to forgive themselves.

They wanted to know that when they wanted to be alone because they just couldn’t be around anyone because they felt unclean or afraid of what they might do or say it was ok and one day that isolation would go away. They wanted to be loved and love back. But I think most of all the wanted to know their country loved them, supported them, would stand by them, and help them when they came home again. They wanted something to come home to that made them feel whole again. They didn’t get any of these things.

For over thirty years they suffered mostly in silence, and then finally out in the open. They started speaking out. They started doing their own marches. They wrote letters. Those who could walk pushed those in wheel chairs as they marched on the capital. Those with two legs helped support those with one leg. Those who could see held out their arms for those blinded by the war so they could walk side by side and demand that they no longer be anonymous. They walked, hobbled, and wheeled their way back into the very hearts and soul of the America who had turned her back on them. They took back their country and homes that they had so valiantly fought for. And, along with it all they regained their own self worth and dignity. They restored Americas dignity. They brought about an end to 30 years of shame and apathy on the part of all America and her people.

Those brave, forgotten men [and many women] gave back to America more than America ever gave to them. Then they taught our country about forgiveness. Because while America turned its back on them, these brave souls never turned their backs on America. They fought and won their biggest war, the indifference of a nation.

May God always look down on our troops with grace. May America never turn its back on its own again. Else, what was it all for?


~ by devildog6771 on May 17, 2005.

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