AND I AM VERY SORRY. THIS IS MY APOLOGY.
I visited the local city park and got emotionally clobbered by what I discovered. I cannot recall why I visited the Park that day; it does not happen often. But I clearly remember walking over to the bomber aircraft mounted on a pylon to take a closer look. The bomber is the centerpiece of the City’s memorial to our war dead. Memorials by custom have various bronze plaques designed to inform the visitor and this memorial hews to custom. It has multiple plaques in several locations. It happened when I started to read the large central plaque. It is a poem composed by a Vietnam war veteran from our area. As I read into the poem, I realized this experience was going to change me in a powerful way. I was feeling grief and guilt as the poem returned me to the time of the Vietnam war. I remembered the 50,000 young citizens that died. I remembered the countless number who were maimed and those who never recovered. I thought of my wife’s youngest brother who remains disabled by exposure to Agent Orange. This national outrage happened on my watch as a citizen of our Nation. It was my generation that paid little heed to the events that resulted in the disaster of the Vietnam war. We compounded the disaster by treating the returning warriors in the most insulting way possible-we ignored them. Except for those who taunted and assaulted them at airport terminals. It was a shameful performance. Read the poem and you may understand better how I feel.
I vowed on that day to look around me as I go about my daily activities to watch for persons who might be war veterans (look for the hat and the inscription) . When I suspect I have encountered a veteran, I make an effort to engage the veteran in conversation. My objective is to express one citizens appreciation for the veteran’s service. It is a small thing to do as an individual, but, if done by many it may help right the wrongs heaped on young citizens by the Vietnam War.
The war we know as World War II is rightly labeled a just war. It was a war fought to survive as a nation. At its conclusion our Nation thanked the returning warriors in ways that we can be proud of-for the most part. The job of extending thanks is not finished yet. The WW II vets are now in their eighties. Their numbers are growing less by thousands per day. It is time to seek them out and personally thank them. Remember, look for the hat. Do it now!