When we came back from Vietnam to the world the nation had a different outlook upon the war. The draft dodgers chose to see what they wanted to see and not the reality of the war. They chose to paint a different version to promote their cause, flower power, free love, demonstrations and the like. These acts of rebellion were geared to themselves and were held in complete disrespect of our warriors and our flag.
The Vietnam Veteran came back from the hell that was Vietnam with an expression all his own. It was painted on by the death and the blood of his brothers in arms. His own countrymen mocking and denying his very existence, While we stared in complete awe at the visions of burning draft cards and the desecration of our beloved flag. We endured the burning hate that was projected at us from those we fought for. As a result the Vietnam veteran could often be seen with emptiness in his eyes as he sat for hours in silence lost in the only reality he knew. The reality of death, the reality of war and the reality of a time and place where he held life and death in his hands for the cause of freedom. In self defense he exhibited no response nor emotion, just the thousand yard stare. No one cared, after all; it was only a crazy veteran thing.
We The Vietnam veterans, have been back now for over thirty years. The pain is still fresh in our hearts. We still stand in disbelief and, yes we still stare into nothingness. We still grieve at our loss. We are still angered at the way our P.O.W.s and M.I.A.s have seemingly been written off by our government. We are watched as we stare at the hundreds of thousands of names etched upon the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We are thought of as eccentric because we still care for these faceless warriors. Many stare and just see the names, but for those of us who have been there we still see the pain and the emotions upon the face of the fallen. We see the suffering and the effects of war upon the young men who were willing to be ridiculed for fighting for freedom. This is why we carry on conversations seemingly with ourselves at the Wall. This is why we weep tears of compassion and guilt for our Brothers and Sisters forever lost.
We have returned, we still hear the voices that once called us baby killers. We remember the time when protesters marched against the veterans and not with them. The hippies were anti war and anti government, anti-anything that stood for the freedom of southeast Asia. The Viet-Vet came home from battle and received a welcome as no other veteran has ever received. A welcome that would turn his heart to stone because his country refused to recognize their service and sacrifice. The Vietnam Veteran turned inward and as a result shut the world down, but the memories could not be shut down. Their reward was shame, and not honor. Not understanding why and with no sympathetic ear to listen many Veterans took their own lives. No one cared, after all it was just a crazy veteran thing.
Some still call us crazy Vietnam Veterans, It's OK, after all it IS just a crazy veteran thing...
Richard D. Preston
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