jrooth@tx.rr.com
 
 

WELCOME HOME

 
On the back of my Suburban is a sticker that says " I served in VietNam and am damn proud of it." I pulled into a gas station the other day and a man came up to me and asked if I thought I was special because I served in VietNam? My first reaction was to deck him. Then I thought about what he was really asking me. He was asking if I thought the sticker was going to get me special treatment.
 
Some ask why we VietNam vets think we are so special. I do not feel any more special than any other veteran that fought for his country. I do feel like perhaps the treatment that I received when I returned home from VietNam left me feeling somewhat special.
 
Not special in a sense of feeling extra good or feeling better than anyone else. On the contrary, I felt I was a piece of garbage that should have been left in the rice paddies of VietNam. I really had all sorts of self-doubt about what I had done. Perhaps I tried to do the "Mission Impossible" and failed.
 
There were people calling us "baby killer"...Kids were killed in VietNam. Kids that were carrying explosives taped to their bodies and were taught to blow themselves and kill as many Marines as they could. Perhaps when we were accused of burning houses down they were talking about the times when we burned hooch's that had ammo concealed in the roof and rice piles.
 
Yes, I had some second thoughts about how foolish I had been. Those thoughts lasted about ten seconds as I remembered the people getting off the medevac plane . The Marine in the stretcher that had lost both legs from a grenade dropped in his fuel tank by a five year old kid, was he special? He had given that same kid his chocolate bar from his C-Rats only moments before he was injured. The Air Force sergeant that had crashed in his C-123 as he was trying to resupply an Army unit in an out of the way place called LZ Ross wasn't looking very special. He was never going to be able to have his own kids...his wife left him as soon as she heard he was injured and could no longer father her children. Then there was the Marine that made everybody laugh. He told joke after joke to anyone who would listen. We couldn't hear his jokes anymore... he went ahead to clear the beaches for us somewhere over the Pacific...NO BETTER WAY TO DIE THAN TO DIE A MARINE!

I was indeed honored to be among these men...even though I was not wounded. I felt very
mundane in the company of men such as these. I had managed to contract Tuberculosis while working with the Vietnamese. I guess I was special to be allowed to be with those honorable men.
 
 
We didn't ask to go to war. We didn't hide behind some legal trick to avoid our obligation to our country. We did ask to live in a country called America and were willing to offer our hand in keeping it clean and safe for all...not just what we thought was right and proper. We literally offered our lives!
 
Whatever your beliefs were back then, I hope with all my heart that you have seen things more in proper perspective and will give your fellow Americans the benefit of a doubt before ever judging them so harshly again. No hand out is necessary. No treatment of any kind other than common decency and understanding is sought. 58,000+ were lost in a land that was unforgiving. I would bet that more than that same amount have taken their lives as a result of the treatment received by our "friends and loved ones" since the war that was not a war.

All we seek is understanding.  

Trouble is, we don't understand everything that went on nor do we have the courage to dig into the past we have so carefully buried.

 Thirty years is a long time to live with a guilt that wasn't ours but was placed on our backs like a pack. To my brothers who are still around, Welcome Home.  To those who have gone before us and those who follow, America made a terrible mistake. America will be forgiven and we will live and die for the right to be able to make mistakes.
 
Thirty years is a long time to wait to be told :
"Welcome Home!"

To all those who felt it necessary to throw dog poop at us, to spit upon the wounded who walked off the plane and those  carried off I dedicate this short poem I read in Leatherneck Magazine. You, who would ridicule us and tell us how to live but have never walked in our shoes, never felt our pain and never held your finger against your buddy's arteries trying to stem the flow of life sustaining blood that was draining so rapidly; it is to you this is dedicated:
 

Throwaway Heroes  
You could call them throwaway heroes
For this has been their lot,
A long way from their war days, when
Their cry was "Give all you've got."
 
They were there when they were needed,
Always faithful to the Corps,
Dedicated to their country;
We couldn't have asked for more.
 
Now discarded one-time heroes
Find they're jobless and heartsore;
Once the object of our passions,
They're shamelessly ignored.
 
Some have joined the scores of homeless
Who are spread throughout the land;
It's time that they're acknowledged
And receive our helping hand.


Catherine Irwin
Leatherneck Magazine
October, 1996