The Last Word

In March 1969, I got off an airplane in Yakima after 18 months in Vietnam and called my Dad to pick me up at the airport.  To kill the 10 or 15 minutes of time before my Dad could get to the airport (Yakima was a much smaller town in 1969); I dropped by the airport bar to grab a beer.  Like any small town, it just so happened I knew the bar maid since I had taken her to her Prom when she was a sophomore at another school.  She took a look at the ribbons I wore on my Class “A”s and commented it looked like I had “been around”.  She then proceeded to ignore me and charged me for my beer.  I realized I was back in the “world” and most of the “world” didn’t particularly like me or any Vietnam veterans.  Welcome home.  I tied to pass it off,  but since I had already received  a few ugly looks on the trip up from the Oakland Army Base where I had been discharged, I figured I’d better move on to civilian life ex post facto.  A few months later I ran into a couple of my high school buddies who had been “in country” and we wandered over to the local VFW Post where we knew the beer was cheap and figured we would join.  However, we had busted into the “an old timers bar” and that was somewhat akin into stumbling into a minefield wearing snowshoes and the chill in the air required long-johns.  We eventually were accepted by the Post but wandered away as we moved on, got our college degrees, married, and raised families.  With time, we circled back and became involved in VFW activities.  So when I hear that VFW isn’t relevant to the generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, there is a bit of a familiar ring to it.  However, we need to reach out to those younger veterans as brothers and sisters because we know that they have “walked the walk” and paid their dues to become eligible as VFW comrades.  And we tip our hats to them because we know they put their asses on the line just as we did as did those who came before us and for that, we welcome them as equals.  We, as a Post and as an organization, will do all that we can to protect the benefits they have earned (operative word “earned”) and look out for their interests as they transition to civilian life by making sure that Congress and the VA keeps their commitments to this generation of veterans.  All of the members in our Post and every Post with which I am familiar, welcome the younger vets.  So let me reach out on behalf of all of our members to welcome our younger veterans by giving the traditional greeting between Vietnam Veterans – “Welcome Home”.

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