“Forty three years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long) I arrived home from Viet Nam a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving…I have a lot to be thankful for…”
My Dad was on two aircraft carriers during WWII that were sunk. He has proudly worn the “U.S. Navy WWII Veteran” cap I gave him and always gets a lot of “thank you for your service” handshakes.
My war was Viet Nam. I always felt uncomfortable wearing anything that signified I was a Nam vet. We came home to a totally different reception than the vets from WWII and Korea. The hippies and protesters in the San Francisco airport were really hostile and ugly. It seemed that answering the call of our country and going to war wasn’t enough, we had to be branded at the same time… I learned that day that I wouldn’t publicly display my veteran status.
My anxiety about wearing a cap that I purchased recently came from two schools of thought:
1. I was still uncertain of the reaction I’d get.
2. Since I served in a rear area supply/computer outfit, I didn’t feel I deserved any special acknowledgement. Yes, we received enemy fire while on perimeter guard duty, but it wasn’t like the guys in the field, at fire bases or in the choppers who faced constant fear and engagement. I felt guilty and almost ashamed that I hadn’t suffered the same experiences they did.
In a conversation with another vet a week or two ago, I shared my feelings and he said it didn’t matter where in Nam we served, because we were all “in-country” and subject to harm.
So I took his advice and started wearing my cap. I was sheepish about it at first and almost embarrassed when someone would say “thank you for your service”.
Over Thanksgiving, I realized that I should accept the fact that I served and survived, and just be thankful. I’m still not totally comfortable with the cap, but I will get used to it, I suppose.
Making decisions like this aren’t easy for any of us, about anything in our lives that leaves a deep mark on our psyche. But, what I’m discovering is that if you don’t make the choice, you suffer with it more…you carry it like a backpack everywhere you go. I’ve begun to lighten my load and dump the old feelings and move forward…I hope those of you with similar loads will do the same. Good luck!