This morning, Veteran's Day 2013, I drove to town for my free breakfast and pick up some groceries. Hy-Vee groceries stores have been holding Veteran's Day breakfasts for for several years. I am appreciative to the breakfast. When arriving, the staff greeted me with the regular "Thank you for your service.
On my way home, I had the satellite radio tuned in to listen the Michael Smerconish Program on POTUS SiriusXM channel 124. Micheal's topic was the greeting "Thank you for your service" given to those in uniform and veterans. Do those offering the greeting really mean it, or it is just as common as a simple "hello".
This really got me to thinking. "How do I feel when someone 'thanks' me for my service. As a Viet Nam veteran, I am a bit jaded and bitter.
I sure did not get any ""Thanks you for your service" when I got home. Armistice Day (forerunner of Veteran's Day) started as a celebration of the end of World War I. There were celebrations all around the country when Japan surrender, bringing World War II to close.
The Korean "War" I suggest is still being fought - under a "cease fire". It still is the "forgotten war".
This brings us to Viet Nam - my war. I did not want to to go to war. I tried to keep my deferment after college. I ended up being drafted. And, I served as my country ordered me.
The late 1960's were a troubled time. There were protests against the Viet Nam War (called a "conflict" by the politicians). Soldiers in uniform were often targets. When we had to travel in uniform, we were requested to stay out of sight as much as possible (for our own safety).
When we got home, we were ostracized. A friend of mine from high school was beaten only because he showed up in uniform to see his friends at a local beer bar. We were called "baby killers". When the US involvement in Viet Nam ended, there were no victory parades. No "thank you for your service".
Now we have an all-volunteer military. Much of the day-to-day work of the military is handled by contractors. Contractors that are getting rich over the system (but that's a whole other discussion).
Troops are welcomed home from Iraq and Afghanistan with celebrations. I think much of this is as a reaction to the events of 9/11/2001. We (Viet Nam vets) were expected to return to civilian life as if nothing happened - it was all just a bad dream.
I am afraid the country will forget the lessons of Viet Nam. Those under the age of 40, don't remember the troubled times war fraught. The daughter of a cousin had been volunteering with an "honor flight" group bringing World War II veterans to Washington, DC to the memorial. Will there be "honor flights" for Korea and Viet Nam vets?
Unfortunately, to me, "thank you for your service" has a little hollow ring.
Tom Winfield, SP5
HHC 199th Light Infantry Brigade, HHB IIFFV Artillery