Vietnam veterans deserve our appreciation

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

Since then, Vietnam veterans have been slowly gaining the respect and recognition they didn’t receive when they came home.

I recently visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., where veterans and family members spent three days reading off the more than 58,000 names of U.S. men and women who were killed or went missing in action during the war.

It was there that I had the great honor of speaking with several veterans of this terrible conflict, stopping them and just telling them something long overdue, a few little words that brought some of them to tears: "Welcome home, and thank you for your service."

One veteran asked me through his tears why I had chosen those words, and I told him of my history with this play and how I learned of the harsh treatment they received upon arriving back in the states. He wiped his tears and told me how when he got home, his own family turned their backs on him for years and that he didn’t even meet his grandchildren until 10 years ago.

"I can count how many people told me ‘thank you’ in the first 10 years of being back here in the states," he said. "Eight people; and they were other veterans."

As he spoke with me, unfolding more stories of the years following the war, I recognized the thousand-yard stare that I had been taught about from the veterans I had talked to my freshman year of high school.

Finally after 20 minutes of talking, he asked me if I served, and when I told him I was currently enlisted in the Marines, he said, "It means more to me that you, a young Devil Dog, would go out of your way to recognize me and my brothers of our war than if the president came here and told me, ‘thanks for serving.’"

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