When I came home from NKP Thailand in 1974, I came home alone. There wasn’t a unit redeployment, I was at the end of my enlistment and I was going to Travis AFB for separation.
It was kind of weird. .... When I went over I weighed 210, when I came back I weighed 165 and my khakis fit me like clown pants, but I wasn’t going to buy a new uniform just to go home. One day I was in Southeast Asia, and the next day I was driving down Highway 99 in California’s Central Valley. Now that was culture shock in itself!
Now I’m going to fast-forward to 2012 to share this amazing memory.
I had been given a baseball cap that says “Vietnam Veteran” on it, and I don’t wear it often. On this day however, I had this cap on and I had stopped at a McDonalds in Kingsburg, Calif., for a bite to eat on my way south. After I ate my meal and was heading to the door, I heard a voice say “Hey!” The call came from a rough-looking kind of guy sitting in a booth. I was thinking, uh oh, what’s this about, forgetting what I was wearing on my head. When I turned to this fellow, expecting something less than pleasant, he simply said, “Welcome home.”
Because it took me by surprise I only managed to mumble a simple “Thanks, dude.” And continued on my way.
I wish that he knew or maybe he does know, how much that meant to me. He might have been there too, or he might have just realized what all Vietnam vets had missed.
Thank God our culture now allows us to support our veterans and the country knows that they do what they do for us, regardless of the popularity of the conflict. They risk everything, while we enjoy our freedom.
There is a whole generation of us who were not welcomed back in any significant way. For me that was taken care of in 2012 in Kingsburg, Calif.