As I sit and watch the Live Telecast (March 27, 2002) on CNN of the Homecoming for the men
and women who served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, I am experiencing mixed emotions. I'm
very happy for the moms, dads, wives, brothers and sisters of all those men and women
returning from a 189 day cruise at sea. As the camera pans the crowd, it's easy to see
that this is a very emotional moment for everybody. The caption on the TV reads:
HEROES HOME FROM SEA. The 5,000 men and women who served on the USS Roosevelt were mostly
Naval personel along with Marines. They were apart from their families for 6 months while
they served our country. Many men will be seeing their new babies for the very first time
as they disembark from the ship. The crowd awaits their reunions with loved ones from shore
with excitement and pride. The CNN correspondant roams through the crowd with his camera man. |
"I see him, I see him," a mother excitedly weeps into the microphone while pointing to the ship some 25 yards away.
Another mother tearfully says to the correspondant, "I missed him so much and was worried everyday; I prayed that he would come home safely and he has."
Many family members are asked how they dealt with the absence of their loved ones for 6 months. They stated that if it wasn't for the Internet and their ability to email them, they would have had no contact at all with them while they were at sea.
In CNN's Studio, Paula Zahn says, "This moment makes us so proud to be Americans."
Naval officers and chiefs begin disembarking the ship; RHIP (rank has its privilege). Soon the rest of the men and women begin to leave the ship. They're asked how they dealt with being away from their loved ones for 6 months. They too are grateful that they could communicate via the Internet with email. Everybody is emotionally charged as they're welcomed back to the United States by CNN's correspondant and the rest of the country.
Thirty some years ago a Marine arrives home from Vietnam. He's ordered to stand in one of many lines with hundreds of other Marines at the Air Force base in California. His duffel bag is searched for contraband; almost all of his pictures he took while in Vietnam were taken away from him as they were too revealing of what he experienced during his tour. He spends most of that day, along with the many other Marines returning home at the airport awaiting his orders to be cut. Everybody has 30 days leave coming to them.
The Marine flies home on a civilian plane to New Jersey. He feels good as he thinks about his friends and family, despite the previous day where crowds of people were shouting outside the military airport fence. "Baby Killers." "Murders." He just wants to get home and see his family. Little else concerns the Marine. When he arrives at the airport in Newark, NJ, donned in his USMC uniform he begins his walk down a long corridor. His excitement is somewhat obstructed with glares from the people he passes. He finds himself nodding at anybody wearing a military uniform. When he reaches the airport's main room, he is quick to spot his mom and dad in the crowd. His mom looks different; she's thinner and looks very good. His dad also looks different but at the time he's not aware that his dad had opposed the war in Vietnam. The Marine walks over to his mom and dad. After hugging his mom and telling her how great she looks, he turns to his dad and they shake hands. Fifteen minutes later they're driving home and not a word has been mentioned about the Marine's experiences in Vietnam. The Marine doesn't particularly care to talk about Vietnam and it's obvious that his mom and dad feel the same way. His experiences in Vietnam is over and it was time to get on with life.
The Marine had 30 days before reporting to his next duty assignment. He spends this time with friends who also have no desire to talk about Vietnam. It's not long though until he discovers that his friends believe that the war in Vietnam was wrong. The Marine begins to question the patriotism of his friends. Even though the last 18 months of his life had been spent fighting an enemy that he hated only because they were killing his fellow Marines, he wasn't going to join the ranks of those that thought what he did in Vietnam was wrong. He never quite knew why he had been in Vietnam, but he'd be damned if he would admit this to anybody. The Marine was not ashamed of what he did in Vietnam; he just found not speaking about this part of his life was easier around other people and after all, it was the past. He had done his part and what else needed to be said about it.
Too many Vietnam Vets have a similar story. Was the Vietnam Vet treated poorly upon his return to the United States? Of course! Fortunately, our country has grown. We understand now that it's imperative to WELCOME HOME our heroes with open arms when they choose to serve in the military. They are not baby killers nor are they murderers; they are this country's brave men and women who choose to serve her. Of course there's a BUT ... please stop the tear jearking TV interviews about all the BRAVE sailors going off to the Gulf to sit on a ship some hundreds of yards off land. I mean you enlist in the USN you expect to be deployed and away from you family. Deal with it....damn!