Monday, November 27, 2006

Veterans and Thanksgiving

These are two topics I have yet to comment on. Somehow they seem to go together.

For me and for much of the country in the late 60's and 70's this wasn't always the case. I am a vet of the Viet-Nam era, drafted Sept 67 and let go Apr 69. People then seemed to blame the troops for the war instead of the politicians and their supporters. It never happened to me, but I've heard the stories of soldiers vilified, spat upon, and disrespected. At least this time around, the troops are supported by the populace even if the war is not. We got no thanks for going to war as the government dictated. The most print and film went to the draft card burners and those that fled to Canada. I could not face either choice, so I went; I went not believing in the cause, but believing I had no choice and that I would survive. Somewhere in my subconscious was a faint feeling of duty. It was my country and I enjoyed it and had to pay something for it besides taxes.

Years later and some maturity gained I knew I was right. But I didn't blame Tom Hayden or Muhammad Ali for their choices. This is the beauty of this country: dissenters may go to jail, but they, too, can gain respect for their beliefs if they stand by them.

But this is supposed to be about Veterans. I am one and this is my experience. When we lived in Canada, I found many male Canadians fascinated about the Viet-Nam war. Actually I found more support for Viet-nam vets at that time (1977-1995) than I ever had in the U.S. Many of those guys knew someone who crossed the border and enlisted. I met several. They just wanted to go to war and help out the U.S. When some of my co-workers found out I was a Vet, I had to answer many questions of the type: "What did You do in the War?" My answer was always I was an airplane mechanic and was stationed in a very secure area. (True) One young co-worker kept pestering me for more gory details: Didn't you ever shoot anyone or fire on a village...? I finally told him I was really trained as both a silent killer and a sniper, that I lost count of my kills and though I was stable now, it didn't take much to set me off. (False) He left me alone after that.

In Canada, it is called Remembrance Day. And on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, all across Canada at memorials large and small ceremonies take place with town folk and Canadian Forces and Cadets. PDB took part in several. He and his Air Cadet Squadron marched in a parade and stood on a monument to the fallen while the town celebs made speeches. Don't see much of that here, even in NC.

When I was discharged at Oakland, CA., Spring 1969, the army gave us our back pay in 50 dollar bills and a class A uniform to walk out in. My friends and I shared a cab to the San Jose airport to meet wives and girlfriends. Walking through the airport to the bar we got looks but no greetings, friendly or otherwise. Memories fade over time, and I'm not too sure if the bartender was surly because we were in uniform or wanted to pay for the drinks with fifties.

Now, I see many troops in airports and they are familiar and have the respect of the civilians.

Perhaps, 'cause I'm in the South, Vets and soldiers seem to have more honor for their current and past service. This state, NC, seems to have more military posts than universities, but I may be mistaken.

My Dad was a Vet, my Father-inLaw is a Vet. I hope my sons don't have to be Vets. If they want to enlist, more power to them, but I would not be happy.

Back in the day, it seemed that vets had to band together and look for respect and honor. Now it is just given. For that I am thankful.

About Thanksgiving Day, you may want to read PDB's take. We were at the same gathering. Some family, too much food and a great time.

And if you think your Congressional Representatives and Senators are only paying lip-service to supporting the troops and vets, check out the Veterans link in the right margin. It is an eye-opener.

I almost forgot to mention this video about Remembrance Day. I think it's really great, and was sent to me by one of my Canadian friends.

BRB is Write (and has no visible scars)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an absolutely AMAZING telling of our history. I, too, was a child of that era, and at 19, on July 5, 1970 my only brother was killed in Viet Nam. My family fell apart, and I had to stop going to college for a few weeks to run the family business. When I returned, one of my teachers actually told me my brother was a 'murderer and got what he deserved'. I'm a Southern lady, but on that day used some pretty foul language to tell him what I thought of him. I was, am, and always WILL be extremely proud of my brother. God bless ALL who served! I have a special place in my heart for the veterans on that era, who faced NO support back home. God bless you for sharing your story with us!

8:51:00 AM  

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