Dear Vietnam Veterans

Vietnam Vets Memorial

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Shelagh Thompson

While every military man, woman, and veteran are to be respected and commended, you - the Vietnam Veteran - are special. You have endured what others haven’t had to endure. America tried to forget you. America tried to pretend it “ain’t no big thing.”


But it IS a big thing.


Every one of you that served during that time, regardless of your job or where you served, was part of an essential machine that required every single nut, bolt, cable and wire work in perfect collaboration for one greater objective: our country’s freedom and liberty.


Back then, I saw your faces - boys just several years older than me - staring from the photos in the newspapers and magazines, or speaking wearily on quivering news reels that glared from the television. I knew some of those men - teens, actually - sent to war in a foreign country for a purpose left unclear. Young men were rushed through minimal training and sent, unprepared, to a strange country only recently heard of. At home, thousands marched in the streets protesting the very action that allowed them to do so. Others fled the country, taunting those who bravely answered the call of duty.   


I was content and happy in my little Wyoming world, cutting up and wrapping my first antelope, guided by my dad who had just given me my first rifle. We would enjoy that wild game all winter, and I would spend a lifetime enjoying that rifle; able to hunt with my dad and protect our livestock, myself, and others. You were fighting to protect my right to do so. 


Back home, the Civic Club had asked me to portray the Statue of Liberty on a float in the state fair parade. I was to “hold that flame (made of cellophane) high.” My arm ached for days. Several years later I led the state fair parade, proudly carrying the American flag on my horse. I was privileged to carry the Wyoming flag in the Grand Entry at various rodeos in the state. You were bleeding on foreign soil to keep Lady Liberty’s flame burning brightly and those flags flying free.


I could attend any church I wished to on Sundays. As a delegate for an American Legion program, I wrote an essay on citizenship and government to present to local and state officials. You were just trying to stay alive in a tempestuous country to ensure my voice was heard. 


I looked at your battered faces in the news, drawn and dirty; grown old before your time, desperate to stay alive, trying to understand what you’d been sent to do, clinging to the hope that you would come home in one piece and someday gain some understanding of what was taking place back in “the world.”


You returned to an unappreciative nation. You were disrespected and treated poorly. You had proudly worn your uniform home, but people said, “Don’t put it on again, you’ll be spit on.” You should have been allowed to be proud coming home! You served your country; you did your duty. You did what the country asked of you. You tried to fit in again but you had changed. The country had changed. You were robbed of your youth and innocence. 


But you didn’t lose the war in Vietnam; Washington D.C. lost it.


Determined, you tried to find love, careers, hope, and purpose. Too often you were rejected, ridiculed, and refused. Fifty-plus years later, you are still in combat, struggling with acceptance and fighting to receive the benefits you earned. 


In recent years, Vietnam Veterans have been more willing to make their voices heard. But it’s not for themselves that they address their issues, but for compassion, understanding and concern for the returning veterans of today. It is the Vietnam Veterans’ fervent prayer that there be “no more Vietnams” in which today’s soldiers experience the struggles, pain and mistreatment the Vietnam era veterans have endured.


Vietnam Veterans, I hope you know that there are those who truly understand, appreciate, and respect you beyond words. We have limited ways to express our gratitude other than saying thank you, but our love for you is incredibly strong and undeniably sincere.


We will walk with you.

We have your backs.


Vietnam Veterans Day is Sunday, March 29. Every citizen must know of at least one Vietnam Veteran. Take a moment to let them know that their sacrifices aren’t unnoticed or unappreciated.


Glenrock Independent

Physical Address:506 W. Birch, Glenrock, WY 82637 Mailing Address: PO Box 109, Douglas, WY 82633 Phone: (307) 436-2211

The Glenrock Independent is located in the Bronco Building

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