Friday, November 7, 2008

"Welcome Home"

On Sunday, November 2, my husband and I went to Hartford to see the Veteran's Day Parade. We went last year for the first time and actually my attitude was, "been there, done that". I really did not want to go again, but then I realized how important it is to my husband. He is a Vietnam Vet.

It was a little warmer than last year, but not a lot. I bundled up with a blanket on my lap while I sat on a lawn chair watching one Veteran group after another and school bands and fife and drum corps pass by for nearly two hours. We were given signs to hold up which said "Thank you" to the Veterans as they went by. Every war or conflict was represented. Some Veterans walked with companies they work for now, some with veteran groups for their particular nationality, some by branch of the service and some just riding their motorcycles. There were groups representing the Civil War and Daughters of the American Revolution and even a group dressed up as the members of the 4077th from the MASH TV show. A replica of the Wall was wheeled by.

My husband wore his Vietnam Veteran cap, therefore, as those marching were honored, many of them, likewise acknowledged him on the side lines. He got a few "thank yous and a couple of "welcome homes". The one that touched me most and brought tears to my eyes was the black man who said, "Welcome home, brother."

How much my husband had wanted such a reception when he came home from Vietnam. How much we would have liked a "thank you" for risking his life. It is very important to my husband even now, to hear "thank you" for things he does now. He was forever effected by the negative way he and the other veterans were treated.

To this day, he feels bitter feelings toward Jane Fonda and other protesters. We researched and tried to send packages to every enlisted person from Barkhamsted two years ago. I know, though, as he watches ceremonies welcoming home soldiers now, he feels jealous. Who can blame him?

I was mentioning his feelings to someone and he said, "oh, get over it." Wrong choice of words this person was a proud descendant of American Indians and had been verbal about their mistreatment. I told him I could say the same to him about his feelings for his ancestors--He got the point.

Likewise, I wonder what it will take...hundreds of thousands of men died and fought brother against brother for the freedom of slaves in the Civil War. Why then, are all white Americans lumped into a category of basically, "them vs us"? Groups started up special scholarships for minorities, businesses established quotas for hiring minorities, government made a holiday for one of the most beloved leaders for racial equality, Martin Luther King Jr. Now we have a black president. Somehow, like my husband's long awaited "thank you", I just don't think it will be enough for some.

At least my husband's thorn in the side is one that he lived through--not something that happened over one hundred years ago. No doubt, there were still racial issues more recent than that, but I do believe such situations are only brought on by the people themselves, not by the nationality. Not every white man is a member of the KKK and not every black is a member of the Black Panthers and therefore, feel that way.

I'll admit, I will always feel uncomfortable if I am the only white person in a room of black people, though, likewise I would feel the same in a room of all men, all Asian or all Spanish. White people have not been the minority and therefore, those scenarios are unusual.

I have had a couple of black friends in my life. We saw past the racial issue. Yet I also worked with a mean black lady who hated whites and showed it any time she looked at us and was threatening to us. Some people can't get past it. Many people voted for Obama just because he was black. I'm sure, likewise, many people voted for McCain because he was a veteran and Palin, because she was a woman.

I can see when a person who's heritage is a minority and becomes the leader of our country, that would invoke pride in those people. I hope they too can now proudly put an American flag on their house. "This land is your land, this land is my land." Let's remember that fact is due to hundreds of thousands of men who fought in the Civil War and all the wars before and since, whether you agreed with the war or not. Just as minorities want respect, these men and women deserve respect.

It is a time of change. So, whether you supported the past wars, or the present, remember, these are individuals doing this for our country. Give them the respect they deserve and the thank you that they deserve. I was very touched when my husband came home from the grocery store one day and he said this little girl came up to him. He did not know her and thought she must have thought that he was someone else. He had his Vietnam cap on and this little child came up and said, "Thank you." He looked up and saw the mother watching. What a wonderful thing to instill in a child--gratitude for those who have served for us.

Surely in the next couple of days, you will see a veteran somewhere, take the time and thank them--and just don't do it on veteran's day. It will probably never be enough to erase the scars, but it certainly is a start. We have many things to be thankful for especially our freedom. When was the last time you said, "thank you"?

To any veterans reading this, I thank you.

If my husband wants, I will go to the parade again next year, and the year after and the year after....

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