Tell Them…WELCOME HOME!

Listening to the radio while driving the other day, I happened upon a host, Jeff Bolton. His show is one of many I listen to, as he has been a strong supporter of our military.

Several callers in a row were veterans of Viet Nam, and at the end of one of the calls I was expecting him to say what so many have said, since G. Gordon Liddy first started doing so in the early 90’s, and that was to say “Thank You For Your Service.”

It was a false expectation on my part, as Bolton said something I was completely unprepared for. Something that made my eyes well up with tears, and caused me to gasp a little.

He stated, for this Viet Nam vet, who probably never heard these words before…WELCOME HOME!

Of course. He was correct, it was seldom said. Even by family and friends. It was as if everyone wanted to forget it ever happened, that it was in the past, and the less said about it, the better.

I came home just as Saigon was falling, more than two years after combat operations ended, and yet, I still had some mental midget yell “baby killer’ at me at LAX. I heard of much worse greetings by returning combat vets.

When I returned, it was a rush to get to a court room in East Texas and begin what would be a custody battle for my children that would last another six years. While my mind was occupied with immediate concerns, my heart still hadn’t made the disconnect with the strong affection I had for the life I had been living in the Philippines, nor of the experiences I had during the evacuation of Saigon in Operations New Life and Operation Babylift.

On several occasions I would attempt to relate some of my experiences with family and life long friends, but they would cut me off and change the subject. They didn’t have to participate in the ugliness or the beauty of it all, and did not want to be reminded of it.

They just did not want to know about it.

Subsequently, it took me much longer to process it all and put it in its proper perspective.

For the vets and active duty personnel here, you will understand what I mean, when I say it is other vets and active duty I feel a stronger kinship with. We know the looks in fellow warriors eyes, without saying a word. For those who never wore a uniform, this is not intended to denigrate you in any fashion. It is just not possible to understand without having been there, even with all the invaluable support you provide.

My reaction to Jeff Bolton’s comment surprised me, and hurt me in a self-pitying way. No, no one ever told me Welcome Home, not even those who loved me most, but it wasn’t their fault, they just didn’t understand. It also hurt for those many I knew who came home to be buried, and for those who were never the same again. They too were never welcomed home.

So, a lesson learned and not to be forgotten.
Whenever you encounter a vet or a returning service member, don’t be shy, shake their hand, thank them for their service, and never fail to always extend a heart felt WELCOME HOME!

It means much, much more than you will ever realize.

*Cross-posted*
At lgf2.

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