Readers React: Veterans deserve warm welcome
Editor's note: Following are readers' responses to today's editorial. To join the Daily Herald's Editorial Review Panel, e-mail Community Conversation Reporter Robert Mentzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an Army veteran who served seven years during the Cold War, this editorial brings back memories. I enlisted in the Women's Army Corps in 1977; the Vietnam War had been over for two years and the draft had only ended in 1973. The WAC was disbanded in 1978, after I reached my first permanent duty station. All the female soldiers were transferred to the regular Army. In basic training, our male drill sergeants were Vietnam veterans who had originally been drafted.
So I finished my training and set off for the Land of My Ancestors. U.S. Army Europe, specifically the 3rd Armored Division of which I was a member, was positioned to keep the Soviets from attacking through the Fulda Gap, an area of lowlands between the former East and West Germany. So, while we remained in a constant state of readiness, we were encouraged to learn about the country we were "occupying."
I met with some family members in Munich. I learned to speak a little German. I skied on the Zugspitze.
In addition, the Army taught me leadership skills, teamwork and the importance of integrity. I also learned that all the people I met were more like me than they were different. I learned that I enjoy serving and helping others and that my talents lie in the area of listening. I learned that my favorite word is tenacious, because that is what I had to be to survive. Now, when I am faced with something unfamiliar, I know I can succeed because I am determined to do so.
My military experience was life-changing and made me a better person.
town of Guenther
Make policies to support vets
The most important thing we can do is petition Congress to change the laws and make it possible for all veterans, including National Guard and Reservists who have served overseas -- no matter the length of time -- to be afforded the same benefits as regular military personnel.
So many of these men and women are given short shrift with regard to health care and benefits when they return. Especially those wounded, whether it happened in action or walking down the road in Iraq.
But then again, I am being unrealistic. We don't want to provide health care for everyone in the United States. Too expensive. Better to let the insurance companies and drug companies continue to tell us what we can and cannot do. So why should veterans be any different from the rest of us?
Among our finest
Even though our leaders did not learn their lesson in Vietnam, the citizens of the United States learned theirs: Welcome your warriors home with open hearts, generosity, gratitude and patience. Honor their sacrifice and bravery.
They are among the finest this country has to offer. They have proven their perseverance, determination, loyalty and honor.
Welcome home. We missed you and look forward to welcoming all your brothers- and sisters-in-arms back home soon.
Contrasts with Vietnam
The welcome home given returning veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan is both heartwarming and disconcerting. 'Nam vets returned to indifference, silence and thinly disguised hostility.
Each vet learned to deal with the leftovers from Vietnam on his own, but few knew how. Flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, anger, distrust of authority and a host of other problems are among the psychological effects of war. Describing these problems would take more space than is available. If interested, rent "In Country," starring Bruce Willis. It does a much better job than I can.
Twenty years after I left Vietnam, a bunch of local 'Nam vets formed a chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America to help each other finally come home. Some are still struggling, but we get by with a little help from our friends.
Today's vet has advantages 'Nam vets didn't have. They are older, not drafted, they have public support and are transferred as a unit.
If you want to help them, just say "Welcome home," listen when they want to talk and give them space when they don't. And quit calling everyone a hero -- it's embarrassing. Believe me, they know which ones are the heroes.