“Welcome Home, Mighty Warrior”

Sometimes in life, we must go backward to move forward.  We may need to repair a bridge before we cross it, or perhaps, ask for forgiveness before we seek blessings.

History tries to teach us not to repeat errors.  America has a long-standing record of fighting for freedom and for the oppressed throughout the world.  Our ancestors suffered or died in battles to protect our democracy and served us all with heroic acts and unselfish devotion. 

America has given much, applauded many, and saved countless, but we have also created a few potholes in our roads that caused damage and pain.

This country made an error in the 1970s when our Vietnam Veterans returned home. It was a tragic mistake when we held no parades, heard no applause, and saw few “Welcome Home” signs for those who had served America in a long, brutal war. 

We sent well over 2 million men and women to battle and over 52,000 soldiers to graves.  Afterward, we shuffled the war and those returning soldiers into silence.  We were in a hurry just to “get over” this blip in our history.

It is past time to repair this pothole.

A humbling experience

After I wrote a column, “Salute the Vietnam Warrior,” last Memorial Day, I began receiving many responses from thankful Vets. They simply appreciated my few words recognizing their valiant service. Soon, I was invited and honored to speak to several Vietnam Veterans’ organizations near me.

  The first evening I stood before a group, I was moved to tears. When one gazes into the eyes of those who walk with canes due to old war wounds or still grieve over the loss of close comrades, the experience changes you. 

In the corner of an American Legion Hall, a white linen-covered table with a place setting for one adorned with a single red rose dominated the space and jarred my soul.   The empty chair patiently waits for the missing soldier from long ago to join the others for dinner.    

I was humbled when I noticed a veteran’s tear fall because I had simply saluted their service with mere words.  It was then when I realized that we must repair a hurt, mend a heart, and build better bridges.

Past due gratitude

These military men and women applauded me for a three-minute story, plus a 30-minute speech. However, they had given years telling countless stories of heroism, sacrifice, loss, imprisonment, abandonment, and grief.  It is I who should be praising these warriors who marched en-masse to Southeast Asia to fight in a thankless, unmerciful, foreign war.

There are over 600,000 living Vietnam Veterans scattered over our country and beyond today.   The names of those who never returned home are carved on a wall in Washington. Yet, few of us will see or begin to understand the depth of pain it represents. 

All veterans, including those who returned from other battles, need to be welcomed home. Also,not only by their families but by every person who calls themselves American.  I wish it were not too late to produce a Ticker Tape parade celebrating our returning military men and women. But since that cannot happen, perhaps we could honor them another way.   

We should give from our hearts to the many organizations that help our veterans to show our appreciation.    It is not too late to mend the broken spirit of the soldier we too often take for granted.  It is never too late to reward our heroes with resounding applause, open arms, and gratitude. 

A warriors love of country

We will be changed if we look into the pages of history to understand that the love a warrior has for his country is the backbone of our nation.  The sacrifice that soldiers gave so that we remain free should be honorably held in the highest regard, whether a war was popular or not, whether you agreed with the battle or not, and no matter how long ago it was.  No veteran should ever feel alone or forgotten.

We can spar over politics, over our rights, over policy, and over our dinner tables, but we must all agree that we never forsake the most courageous among us. 

Let’s welcome home all veterans with our humble hearts, countless gifts of gratitude, and buckets of pride.  Let’s fill our potholes with care and concern so those who march across the bridges to war will always do so, knowing that we will honor their courage all the rest of their days.   

Here are two out of many you may wish to donate to on this Veterans Day 2021:

Vietnam Veterans of America or your local chapter

Tunnels for Towers Foundation