The last Vietnam veteran

By Ronald Babcock

When the last surviving Vietnam veteran succumbs to Agent Orange illness or passes away from old age and merges into the D.C. Wall, an era and a way of life for us will pass forever into American history.

America has held on to its Vietnam veterans like no other war we have ever fought. We were never allowed to really come home. We were the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that nobody wanted, and yes, many of us were called baby killers and were spit upon, and we felt as though society did not want us, so we put away our military uniforms and our service medals and ribbons and tried our best to blend into civilian life, as many of us continued our education, built a successful business or just went to work.

Many of us came home mentally and physically broken, and years after the war the toxins in Agent Orange reared their ugly heads as many of us were suffering from a variety of major illnesses, including cancers, heart disease and diabetes, just to name a few. And typically after retiring, if not before, PTSD, along with nasty visions of horror from our days in 'Nam, began to visit us in our sleep.

When there was no one else to turn to, we turned to our fellow 'Nam brothers, who understood each other and in our brotherhood we found comfort, acceptance and understanding. And in our shared experience we found validation of our service and of our sacrifice.

Hopefully, someday someone will tell the true story of the Vietnam warriors, and then again, maybe not. Sadly, our experiences, our wartime way of life and all the events that transpired to produce the unique Vietnam veteran will be known only to us.

And that, my brothers and sisters, will have to be enough.

Welcome home.

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