Welcome home, job well done

  • Published
  • By Col. Walter H. Ward
  • 317th Airlift Group
With Veteran's Day upcoming, it's a good time to reflect upon the tie that binds everyone who has served their nation, that every generation is called upon to purchase freedom for the next. For answering that call to duty, our armed forces are held in high regard in all corners of our nation. We have served the nation well from conflicts in Iraq, to Bosnia, to Afghanistan, as well as humanitarian operations around the world. We cannot, however, claim credit for earning America's respect on our own as we are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.

No matter which war or conflict, America has always opened its hearts and arms to our warriors and said the words, "welcome home, job well done," with one notable exception. The Vietnam conflict was a divisive event in our nation's history, one in which the lines became blurred between feelings about policy, versus the feelings toward those who answered the nation's call.

In many cases, Vietnam veterans bore the brunt of anger and frustration over policy decisions, and did not hear the cherished words, "welcome home, job well done," as veterans of World War I, II, Korea, and my generation has heard.

There were two ways Vietnam veterans could have chosen to deal with being treated differently from heroes past and present. They could have turned to anger and resentment against our nation. Or they could have remained silent when my generation's time to defend freedom beckoned, but they did not. Instead, Vietnam veterans remained loyal to our nation, each other and those who followed.

Through their example more than words, the ones who were hurt the most led the way to healing our nation of an old wound. The ones who were hurt the most gave America a second chance, a chance America embraced and answered with an outpouring of support that has sustained us through the last two decades of conflict. The ones who were hurt the most made it their business to unite us and make us whole again. Anywhere in the country our armed forces are seen in uniform, they are greeted with applause, respect, a kind word and well wishes. It's time the giants whose shoulders we stand on finally get their due for service to the nation that has endured long past the conflict.

From those of us serving today, whose life of service is revered with the dignity it deserves, let's make it a point to say a special thank you to our Vietnam veterans for being the giants who lifted us all up. Let's make sure they hear these long overdue words from us, "welcome home, job well done."