The world has changed a lot since I was a kid. I remember seeing the newsreels of service men and women returning from WWII and the ticker parade in the big cities. Young men and women kissing in the streets welcoming their loved ones home.
When it became my turn to serve it was a different kind of war that we were asked to fight. It was considered police action, our country was not under direct attack like the attack on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. We were asked to defend against communism in a country we hardly heard of, on the other side of the world and there was a draft going on. It was a different generation and we didn’t have that anxiousness to run off to join the fight but we did, and we did it for the honor and love of our country because we were asked to. But in this war returning home did not have the same glorious welcoming.
Protesting was going on everywhere, returning vets were spit on and ridiculed for participating in such an unpopular war. But wait, weren’t we America’s children too? Didn’t we do what was right because our country asked us too. It was sometimes painful to feel that you did wrong but yet had offered your life in honor of our majestic country.
In 1984 America came back to apologize to its returning vets with a hugely successful ticker tape parade held in New York City. I was fortunate and honored to have attended that event. It was a time that we once again were able to reunite and bond with our fellow brothers a sisters and finally be thanked for what we had been asked to do.
Today I see many vets proudly wearing symbols displaying their commitment to the service of their country. There is a very tight bond between vets. We love to see each other, and talk about our experiences, where and when we served and most of all to welcome each other home and thank each other for our service, and we call each other brother even though we never met.
Since the cowardly attack of 9/11 on the United States of America, our young men and women have again been called to defend our honor and protect our country from further vicious attacks. There is no draft this time, and there are no special parades, but there is someone’s son or daughter in uniform voluntarily willing to answer that call. This is what America is. We are not perfect but we love our country and we pull together when we need to.
Sometimes when we see today’s men and women in uniform we are not sure what to do. Do I look at them, should I say something because I feel I am supposed to, but that may make me feel funny and awkward.
The clear answer, my friend, is to walk directly up to them, give them a warm welcome and proudly thank them for being a special American and for defending the Red, White and Blue we all freely live under. It will make you both feel so good!