Veterans Day Reflections

Sunday, November 11, 2012

As a Vietnam Veteran , I was never personally spat upon, was never called names by ignorant -illiterate-unwashed protesters, even though I have met veterans who say they were, and I believe them.  Even worse to me, was the cold, distant atmosphere that developed in the immediate area when I truthfully answered when an old friend or classmate asked "Haven't seen you in a while, where have you been?"

People would get that "look," and start edging away. "Good to see you, later!" And gone. So I learned to avoid the question and places where it might be asked. When Pat told her great-aunt that I was a veteran, she was corrected that I wasn't old enough to be one. WWII was the only real war, and the only place veterans were made.   

I worked for the same employer for over 35 years, and although the company knew my status, very few if any of my co-workers knew that I was a veteran.  I never mentioned it to anyone for at least 30 years. After many of those years, I learned that the guy who was the general manager of the company when I was hired, was afraid that if I became antagonized, I might "go postal" or something. After all, I was one of those crazy Vietnam vets.

I don't remember hearing a lot about Veterans Day back then, but when I would see something on the local news about the service a National Cemetery, they always showed a very small crowd, of very old veterans. Now, the place is packed at every celebration. I don't remember when it began to change, perhaps sometime around the first Gulf War, that people began to honor veterans more.   

I was shocked the first time someone thanked me for my service. Never imagined restaurants giving vets free meals, and other discounts at other merchants. Don't get me wrong, the change of attitude, coupled with the advent of the internet has enabled me and others to find many of the guys I served with, and has helped us in organizing reunions. With everything I've seen and been through, I can borrow from Barbara Mandrell , and paraphrase; "I was a veteran, when veterans weren't cool."

Don Hill


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