There are few things quite as pleasant as having someone tell me, “Thanks for your service,” when they see that I’m wearing the Vietnam Veterans cap that my children bought for me.
Times have changed. People never use to say anything to me when they saw my cap, unless they were a fellow Vietnam Veteran, and then the question would usually be, “When were you there?”
We’d chat a little bit, discussing whether our time in Vietnam overlapped or not. Then we’d shake hands, say, “Welcome Home,” and go our separate ways. It was almost always the same, When were you there, and what branch?
You never asked what the other person did in Vietnam, and you never asked if they had been wounded or had PTSD. You just didn’t go there.
Why did we say, “Welcome Home?” because nobody ever said that to us when we came back to the States.
When I came home, nobody even met me at the airport.
But things have changed a lot since 9/11.
Americans seem to realize the America’s servicemen and servicewomen sacrifice a lot to defend our country.
“Freedom isn’t Free” is a popular idiom in America, and people seem to have realized that the idea has been true for their whole lives, not just after 9/11, and they are thanking veterans for their service no matter when or where they served.
So it is a good feeling when someone sees my cap and says “Thank you for your service.”
It seldom used to happen, but now it happens all the time.
A few days ago, a grey haired woman walked out of her way to cut through the vegetable section in Wegmans to thank me for my service. It made me feel good.
Then Monday, when I bought a cup of coffee and a scone at Java Junction, the young college-age woman who served me said “Thank you for your service” when I bought my coffee.
I replied, “Thank you. Nobody ever said that to us when we came home.”
She stopped and her jaw dropped open. Her eyes got big and she asked, “What do you mean?”
I said, “Nobody ever said that to us when we came home. Nobody even said welcome home. We were treated like we were baby killers, and nobody wanted anything to do with us.”
She said, “I didn’t know that.”
I said, “How could you? They don’t teach that in history books.”
“One time I went for a job interview and the only thing the interviewer had circled on my resume was that I was a Vietnam Veteran, and he had circled that in red. When I asked him why he had it circled in red, he stammered and stuttered, so I got up and walked out. It was pretty obvious that they weren’t hiring any Vietnam Veterans that day”
“Nobody wanted us. Nobody said welcome home, and nobody ever said thank you for your service.”
“So thank you very much for saying that to me. I really appreciate it that you cared enough to say something. Have a good day, and smile a lot.”
Thanks a lot Americans for finally realizing that there is a difference between the politicians who get us into wars, and the dedicated servicemen and women who fight them.