I thanked my husband this morning and wished him a Happy Veteran’s Day. He left Buffalo, New York in February 1967, headed to Phan Rang AFB, north of Saigon. When then President Lyndon Johnson sent his new son-in-law there, I sure prayed that LBJ loved Lt. Robb and wanted to see him serve on a relatively safe base. Since Dave’s folks lived in Honolulu that year, he flew in from Nam, and I cut a week’s worth of college classes and flew in from Buffalo. During that week, Dave asked me to marry him in August 1968, and I said “Yes,” He returned to duty in November, and I returned to classes. February loomed closer, and while my excitement grew, Dave’s base started to go on nightly alerts. The TET offensive launched the very week Dave was due to come home. The day scheduled for his arrival came; I left Houghton College in the midst of a blizzard and drove to the Buffalo Airport, not knowing if he’d even arrived on that plane. I’d received no confirmation or call regarding the his incoming flight to Washington State. Standing virtually alone at the gate, I watched the passengers disembark and walk across the snow-covered tarmac. A few military personnel emerged, but not my Dave. The horrible scenarios that swirled in my brain consumed me, and I turned to leave. Suddenly he appeared…the very last passenger off the plane. What a fantastic reunion we had, despite the fact that the airport announced its immediate closing and it took us hours of inching along the higway to get back to campus! That happened almost 43 years ago. And yes, we married that next summer as planned. I have always thanked God that Dave arrived home safely after his year’s tour of duty.
Attending hometown parades with fire trucks, American flags, patriotic music and retired veterans marching side by side always chokes me up. Let the high school band play the “National Anthem” or “God Bless America” and my tears start. What a privilege to live here in America. When I see a man or woman in uniform at the airport or in the mall, I try to say, “Thanks for serving,” but I don’t always remember. This year I’ve seen many stores and restaurants offer some ways of saying thanks. Perhaps we are mourning the tragedy that occurred at Fort Hood. Maybe we know more of the importance of our military. I hope so. You see, Dave came home to the jeers of war protesters. He and those who served in Nam received very little thanks. The Nam vets heard far too many snide remarks about their lack of savvy. What hadn’t they gone to Canada? People considered the Nam veterans stupid for serving in an immoral war.
It took Dave several years before he could visit the poignantly austere Viet Nam Memorial in DC. I still can’t go there without experiencing a real emotional drain. The sacrifices made by those men and women met with ingratitude from protestors who had the right to protest only because of the military’s protection of the rights guaranteed to all in the US Constitution. So I salute the men and women who have served and who currently serve; their sacrifice allows us to enjoy our freedom. I hope we remember throughout the year and not just on Veteran’s Day.