I returned from my second Vietnam tour some 43 years ago. As everyone knows, homecomings in those days were far – FAR – different than they are today. Over the years I have always expressed the sentiment (which I believed) that the war was history, many Americans held the military in contempt, and I would never succumb to anger.
This year I was invited to participate in the Veterans’ Day Parade with a group of paratroopers (mostly from the 82d Airborne Division – including Bob Speer who jumped in near St. Mere Eglise as part of the Normandy invasion and later into Holland). As we passed the people along the sidewalk and heard them say ‘thank you’ it dawned on me that it was the first time since Vietnam that more than one person at a time called out those words to me. I saw many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines – some young and some very old – along the parade route and felt a strong bond to both the fabric of military service and to grateful Americans (and I loved the young children with their own home-made American flags) welcoming me home. To say that I had more than one lump in my throat would an understatement. It was a cathartic event for me. I’m glad I was invited and – regardless of our warts – honored to be an American who happened to serve in an unpopular war in support of my country.