We came home to hostile crowds, a divided nation, and, for reasons that are hard toexplain, we took the brunt of the blame. Stories abound about returning veteransbeing spit on, being called baby killers, murderers and rapists. In fact, I still hear these stories now and again from old vets who lament how badly treated we werewhen we came home.Indeed, many of the stories are true, although I must admit I never experienced anyof that. But I did come home to protesters waiting outside the terminal at SanFrancisco International Airport. I don’t recall having an angry reaction. I was just gladto be back on American soil.We Vietnam vets are getting long in the tooth now. Memories fade with time, as doold emotions. But for many old guys, the war has never ended. The psychologicalscars of being rejected by one’s own country just run too deep.You know who they are. They wear worn-out camouflage fatigues, and even after allthese years, they are still trying to find a place in a country that effectively rejectedthem. Many will never find peace. Indeed, watching the last helicopters leaving theroof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon will forever leave a burning imprint on my mind.But as today comes around, it is important that this country know the legacy we oldguys left behind in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Never again will our veterans comehome the way we did. They are, and rightfully so, treated as heroes. They comehome to open arms and American flags flying in the breeze. There are no protesterscalling them names and waving vulgar signs. They walk through out airports withpeople thanking them for their service.That is our legacy to America. And that is why when two old Vietnam vets greet eachother, they will shake hands and say, “Welcome home.”Even now, it’s never too late.John Tyson is U.S. Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam in 1966-67 as a sentrydog handler at Bien Hoa Air Base.
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