Veterans Day, 2005 at Springfield, Georgia.Veteran’s Day 2005 in Springfield, Ga. was a special day to Vietnam Veterans. After 30 some odd years, we were finally recognized. My Vietnam brothers and I sat and listened as speaker after speaker paid special tribute to us. We listened as veterans from the other wars got up and spoke special words about us and what we had gone through. Yes, this was our time at last. To hear these tributes; especially from WWI, WWII, and Korean War veterans were special because the words they spoke came from the heart. These guys were my heroes, but they called us their heroes. This was the greatest tribute. Other speakers from various organizations stood up and spoke. As some of them spoke, you could hear their voices breaking up. Some were Vietnam Veterans themselves, some had lost loved ones in Vietnam, and some; I think just wanted to say “Thank You” but did not know how. The audience was very quiet, and you could see people trying to hide the tears. This was special.

Something else that made this day special was this young soldier getting ready to deploy to Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division. This young soldier stood at “parade rest” during the entire ceremony; he stood tall and proud – proud to be serving his country. He made me proud that I had once been a soldier. People approached him and shook his hand, each time he would return to parade rest. I approached him and wished him luck. I shook his hand and he told me that he was sorry for the way we had been treated. I looked at him and said, “hey, it was a different time, and it didn’t matter now.” He called me a hero; there was that word again. It is his time now, I told him to go fight, believe in what you are fighting for, come home, and always hold your head high with pride. During all of this time, he never let go of my hand. How could this young soldier know what my fellow veterans and I had been through? Hopefully, he will come home and not have to endure years of dreams and nightmares of a war that never ended. All I know is that his words came from his heart, and I can only imagine how proud of him his family had to be. I wished him luck, and as I turned to walk away, I shed a tear. This young man, tall and proud, ready to give his life: God, please protect him.

This was a day filled with emotion. A country that had called us “Baby Killers”, spat on us, and was ashamed of us, had finally recognized us. We were only doing what our country had expected of us. We did not turn our back on our country – our country turned her back on us… no matter, we would defend her to the death again.

We have endured sleepless nights; nights when demons would come and bring with them such horrible memories. Our lives were changed forever, marriages were destroyed, young boys died. For some, the war has never ended; the horror lives every day in their mind. Some have coped, some have moved on with their lives, hiding the horrors deep within their mind. Some could not cope so they turned to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. For some, to exist everyday relies on a string of prescription medication. Some are dying from the effects of pesticides sprayed during the war, only some forty some odd years later. It is okay, it’s a new generation, we are dinosaurs, old warriors, but with a wealth of knowledge to share. We are a Brotherhood… we are Vietnam Veterans.

At the end of the ceremony, all the Vietnam Veterans stood in a long line and all the people in the audience lined up to shake our hands and thank us for our service. It was very cold on this day, but elderly folks using walkers, young children, old war veterans and other citizens braved this cold to shake our hands. We got Thank You, God Bless You, sometimes just a sad stare. We were hugged, kissed, and patted on the back. Does this heal all the wounds? No, but it is a real good start. I enjoyed it, and my Brothers enjoyed it.

Thank You, Springfield, Ga.

©Copyright 2018 by Phil “Country” Crowley