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VETERANS

           My Trip To Kokomo

       In September we had the privilege to attend our first Vietnam Veteran’s Welcome Home Reunion. It has been held in Kokomo, Indiana, for 24 years. I heard about it last year and decided to go. Those types of festivals have gotten a bad name due to some rowdiness and drinking, and some people view Vietnam vets poorly anyway. It was very reminiscent of Woodstock, and it was as if everyone there knew each other. I myself am a Vietnam veteran, and like most of the rest of my fellow vets I have a similar story of returning from a very unpopular war and learning to not say anything about my military service there. Like nearly all my fellow vets, I had to cope with the problems on my own and not expect any sympathy or understanding from people that were never there.

       I wasn’t sure what it would be like. There were many great memories for me there. One was being given a “welcome home” hug by Sam L Davis—a man from my division who won the Medal of Honor. Interestingly, Sam was the man that was shown receiving the Medal of Honor by President Johnson in the movie Forrest Gump (with Tom Hanks face superimposed.)  There are only about 150 living recipients today, and only half of them live to receive it. Another great moment was when the band played “Proud to be an American,” and the nurses from back then came to the foot of the stage, and the Purple Heart recipients filed by to hug those nurses that helped them so many decades ago. There were no dry eyes in the crowd of several thousands.

       What I found at the reunion was interesting with lots of music; vendors selling lots of food and drinks; all types of military flags, shirts, hats and patches for sale; some great displays of military hardware; and, more importantly, thousands of hurting men. Hurting not only physical in the nature of missing arms and legs, and various complications from being poisoned by Agent Orange, but a much more difficult affliction of psychological problems. The goal of the reunion is not to pat each other on the back for a job well done, but an attempt to bring about some closure to the war and give the participants the welcome home they never received. The bad news is that it will never end—there will never be a closure, and the past will never be changed. We have learned that our only support group will be the men and women that have gone through the Vietnam experience.

        Vietnam vets know well the importance of supporting our current veterans. The damage done by jeering and spitting at returning soldiers is marking them for life and can never be undone. I well remember the incredible high I had as I landed in California after more than a year in Vietnam—only to experience the utter shock of rejection and jeers at the airport, and have the absolute lowest feeling just a few minutes later. It is impossible to get over it.  

        The point of this article is just this: veterans, like any anyone struggling with trials, must turn somewhere for help. Some turn inwardly, and many times turn to the dead-end of suicide. The Veteran’s Administration has established ways to help veterans, and most of the time it becomes a lifelong dependence on psychiatrists and drugs. But some turn to religion, and experience a new life and direction in Christ.

        If you are a Vietnam vet or know one, pass on the information about this meeting. What we have found out is that many of the vets still are in their shell, and keep their service locked in the closet of their minds and speak about it to no one. These types of reunions are for people like that. Come and experience the joy, hugs, tears, and the healing. 

                                 11/06

Postscript: These events are open to everyone and honor all veterans for their service to our country. For information contact the website: www.hcvvo.org

Wayne Schatzle

 

 

 
 

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