Home Sweet Home - Veterans Day 2011
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 • 5:50pm
When I returned home from Vietnam, my father's World War II buddies made me feel as if I had just joined a sacred fraternity. Coming home was something I had looked forward to for more than a year. Making it home was a joyous experience. I was changed in ways I hadn't anticipated. I felt as if I slept for almost a month and I jumped at every loud sound. I even found myself lying on the floor of our home once when I heard a sound resembling small arms fire. But I gradually relaxed as my body and mind got used to not being on alert.
Over the years, my emotions have moderated, the nightmares have become less frequent and the hypervigilance only occurs when there is a trigger event. But even today, every time I think about my tour in Vietnam I am thankful for being here rather than there. I am guessing that the feelings are pretty much the same for the men and women who served in the Gulf War and the War Against Terror.
My next assignment was to a military post in New York City. As a soldier in New York in 1968, I learned pretty quickly that there were certain bars where people wouldn't let me pay for a drink because I was a soldier. There were other bars where I couldn't finish a drink because I would be verbally assaulted and insulted for being a soldier.
Thankfully, times have changed. I am no longer reluctant to admit I served in Vietnam. I see military personnel being greeted with the respect and warmth they deserve. But I still get extremely upset when someone brags about dodging the draft or, if in the military, maneuvering out of an assignment to a combat zone. Vietnam-era veterans still greet one another by saying "Welcome Home" in sardonic recognition that we weren't always welcome and it was decades before we got our welcome home parade.
Most veterans I know, from every political spectrum, are united in three beliefs. Military service is noble and necessary. Being in the military was a personally transformational experience. Federal service in the military or some other service to the nation should be an obligation for all citizens in our country.
As often as not, when strangers learn I am a veteran, they say "Thank you for your service." I appreciate that acknowledgement, especially after the years of being greeted as a "baby killer." But something bothers me about being thanked for military service. Some people enter the military as a career choice. Others do so out of a sense of duty. In my day, most men had no choice; it was volunteer or be drafted. Is it appropriate to thank someone for choosing a career, doing something they believe is everyone's duty or because they had no choice? I don't think so.
Military life is different. Compared to civilian life, you could even say it is abnormal, and a common thread among most veterans is the desire to go home and live a "normal" life. But veterans are three, four or more years behind our cohorts in establishing our civilian careers. That is why we need veterans programs to "reintegrate us into civilian life."
You may ask, how should the many, acknowledge the few who volunteer to serve to protect our country? Here are a few suggestions.
On November 11, fly a flag. Nothing warms a veteran's heart more than seeing Old Glory. And if we see lots of flags flying on Our Day, it makes us feel honored. If you know people who are veterans, find a way to wish them Happy Veterans Day. Write a letter to your Senator asking for support of the Veterans’ Opportunity to Work Act, which is now winding its way through Congress. It will provide financial incentive to businesses to hire veterans and disabled veterans. And in the following 11 months, if you are hiring someone and all else is equal, give the nod to the veteran, he needs a chance to catch up. Let him or her savor the full joy of being home.
Henry Bassman has lived in Summit, NJ for 37 years. He has been married for more than 40 years and has three daughters who graduated from Summit High School. Henry retired from AT&T where he wrote about high-technology science and engineering. He now is affiliated with a small investment bank that specializes in biotechnology, medical devices and healthcare issues, about which he often writes. Articles by Henry can be seen on ABCNews.com and other business Web sites.
Henry Bassman has written about high-technology and medical technology (biotechnology, medical devices and healthcare issues) for more than 40 years. He retired from AT&T, served in the U.S. Army where he became a captain and worked for ABC News. He is now affiliated with a small investment bank. Articles by Henry can be seen on ABCNews.com and other business Web sites. Henry has lived in Summit, NJ for 37 years and has been married for more than 40 years. He has three daughters who graduated from Summit High School.
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