Vietnam Veterans Thank You
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The Vietnam War was arguably the most traumatic experience for the United States in the twentieth century. That is indeed a grim distinction in a span that included two world wars, the assassinations of two presidents and the resignation of another, the Great Depression, the Cold War, racial unrest, and the drug and crime waves.– DONALD M. GOLDSTEIN, intro, The Vietnam War
I am still processing my feelings after attending Saturday’s successful Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. There was NO way I was going to miss it– rain or shine. I was committed to showing up. This was an opportunity to make things right. I wanted to shake hands and say thank you to as many Veterans as I could reach out to.
Below is a copy of the ticket that got me inside the CMS to bear witness to all that was planned to honor thousands of Veterans, their families and guests. Men and Women who proudly served their country during the Vietnam Conflict.. finally receiving the recognition they are due – almost 40 years later.
It was truly something to see: I looked in the faces of aged men who (many of them) now walk with canes, hunched over, many in wheelchairs, or assisted around the field with guidance from their children and grandchildren. In all of them I could still see strength and courage.
They so richly deserve our appreciation. Vietnam was a savage, in your face war where death could and did strike from anywhere with absolutely no warning.The brave young men who fought that war paid an awful price of blood, pain and suffering.
I pictured them decades ago.. young, scared kids, just wanting to make it home.
I saw them in graphic, gritty realities of combat that played on the TV in our family room nightly. I watched and overheard conversations between my older sister and young men who returned from war. They were not the same guys. No question we owe them all a debt of gratitude for what they endured and then had to answer to when they made it back to the world:
“I was ordered to go in there and destroy the enemy.. That was my job on that day. That was the mission I was given. If did not sit down and think in terms of men, women, and children.” – Lieutenant William Calley, testifying at Court-Martial in defense of his actions in Mai Lai, 1970
That was then, and yesterday was the here and now. I shook hands and thanked many men who seemed moved by such a simple, over-used, every day phrase we’ve all said so many times. When it comes from a place deep in your heart, it’s different.
Saturday was about showing appreciation and celebration: It was just great watching these older men and women jamming with musicians who performed on stage. They still “have” it!
Later, master of funk, George Clinton took the stage with the band Parliament-Funkadelic. They sang some of their hits that dominated music during the 1970’s: Give Up The Funk and Flashlight.
Everyone was dancing to songs the veterans remembered from a time long ago… black and white and asian– you name it! Everybody converged in a love fest. I am all the better for what I hear and saw:
I’ll be processing that welcome home celebration for some time. I invite you to consider this quote from President Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts: Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”