Vietnam veterans deserve our appreciation

Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 12:48 PM.

It was opening night for the Chesaning Association of Performing Arts winter competition play "Tracers." Within the first five minutes, during a scene when my character was at boot camp in the push-up position, I noticed several large, elderly men walking out of the theater.

This was the first time I had acted in a high school play, and it was a very meaningful performance that would change the way I viewed the subject of the Vietnam War.

I played the character "the Professor" — a bookworm type who enlisted to serve in Vietnam.

In preparation for this, the cast trained in close-order drill, weight training and even sat down with local Vietnam veterans who told us of their experiences.

"I held my best friend as he was dying after being shot in the chest," one veteran said as he wiped tears from his eyes.

Since that day, I have researched the war and the effect it had on these veterans. I discovered that more than 4,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall are lance corporals like me. There are eight women whose names appear on the wall alongside 254 Medal of Honor recipients.

Upon returning home, most military members are welcomed by their home community with open arms, but not these men. Instead, people would spit on them and call them things like "murderers" and "pawns." They weren’t given a ticker-tape parade or even a "thank you."

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