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Hug a veteran

Published November 13. 2010 09:00AM

It's a couple of days after Veterans Day. Did you hug a veteran? If not, do so. And then say, "Thank you."

As a young person, I never paid too much attention to the whole Veterans Day thing. But I do know that my sister and I were brought up to respect God, country and flag. We thought we were pretty patriotic.

Our dad was a United States Marine and proud of it. Through osmosis, we were proud of him and his service. We didn't know any better. It was the way we were raised. My sister went on to serve in the United States Air Force and I'm very proud of her.

I grew up watching old black and white movies like "Casablanca," "To Hell and Back," "Mister Roberts" "I Was A Male War Bride" and movies with my favorite star, John Wayne, in movies like "Sands of Iwo Jima." They depicted everyone as heroes. They loved God and Country and fought valiantly.

Then I became a teenager and lived through the Vietnam era.

While my parents were still singing all those lovely songs that came out of World War II like "As Time Goes By," "I'll Be Seeing You," "You'll Never Know How Much I Love You," and my all time favorite, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," my generation was singing anti-war songs like "War, huh, yeah, What is it good for, Absolutley nothing!" and "Yeah, come on all of you, big strong men, Uncle Sam needs your help again. He's got himself in a terrible jam, Way down yonder in Vietnam, So put down your books and pick up a gun, We're gonna have a whole lotta fun. And it's one, two, three, What are we fighting for ? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, Next stop is Vietnam; And it's five, six, seven, Open up the pearly gates, Well there ain't no time to wonder why, Whoopee! we're all gonna die."

I remember well watching on television, protesters marching with their posters of "Make Love, Not War" and Peace signs everywhere. People greeted each other with making the Peace sign with their fingers in a V. Vietnam became a dirty word.

On May 4, 1970, I watched in horror as students my age were shot down at the Kent State massacre while protesting the war.

But the most awful thing that came out of that war was the way our Vietnam veterans were treated when they returned home. No parades, no celebrations for our soldiers. Instead, they were vilified and we seemed to want to sweep them under the rug, like we were ashamed of them.

I remember when Harry came home from Vietnam, via Seattle, he didn't wear his uniform. He didn't want anyone to know he was in the Army because of the way people looked at him, like he was someone to be scorned instead of welcomed and thanked for his service instead of dodging the draft and running off to Canada.

It took years before he talked about his time in the Army.

It took a whole other generation before we began to realize what we had done to our men and women who served in the Vietnam era, to understand how devastated they were by the rejection they received when they had returned home.

I believe those of us who witnessed all of that learned we couldn't do the same to our service men and women from Desert Storm and now the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We realize now that no matter how much we disagree with the war, we need to support our brave men and women who wear our country's uniforms and to never let them think we do not appreciate the sacrifices they make for us and our country.

I'm seeing more and more men and women who are finally standing tall when they say they are a Vietman vet.

It's been a long time in coming, but thank you for your service.

I pray every night for peace on earth and good will toward men. I pray that not another life is lost in war. But until that day comes, men and women will continue defending our country.

I applaud the schools that hold any kind of Veterans Day observances because if our young people don't grow up with learning about our veterans and the service they gave, veterans may become forgotten like our Vietnam vets were.

If you didn't make it to one of the many Veterans Day events held in your community, put it on your agenda to do so next year. Make it a family affair. Take your children and grandchildren.

And hug a veteran. So what if it's two days later. He or she won't care. They'll just be glad you remembered.

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