Our National Day
March 29 is National Vietnam War Veterans Day that President Trump signed into law from the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017.
I don't know how most of us Nam veterans survived in the years after the war. I was told to get back to El Toro Marine Base with the "rest of the animals" by the California Highway Patrol because I was trying to hitch a ride on a freeway ramp because we hadn't been paid and we had no money. They gave me a ticket. I tore it up.
I was spit on at LAX by war protesters from Berkeley and other Communist preaching schools, who were also giving blood to the North Vietnamese and calling us baby killers. We were under strict orders not to react while in the Marine Corps uniform. That was hard to do.
I came home alone late at night. My parents didn't have a car. No one greeted us. We were jerked out of the war and thrust back into civilian life without any time to adjust. I took a cab home. The driver had a brother in Vietnam so at least he understood.
I went downtown with my mother in uniform, and people crossed the street to avoid us. My Italian mother was angry about that. The war helped to kill her at a young age. My sister told me she cried every night I was gone. Once a military car stopped at the house and they came to our door. She thought I had been killed and lost it. Turns out they were looking for the guy next door who had gone AWOL and they got the wrong house.
I went to the American Legion with my father, a WW2 Navy vet. He introduced me as a Marine Nam vet. The Legion Members said: "Oh, we were in a real war not some police action."
My father grabbed my arm and we left, and he never went back. That's how we were treated back then. The Legion, VFW...none of them wanted us. When the WW2 guys started dying...then they wanted us, but it was too late. Most of us were bitter at the way we had been treated.
A few weeks after I came home my friend John Englert called me and told his brother Jimmy had been killed. At the funeral, his mother screamed at me because I had survived and Jimmy didn't. I could understand why she did that because of her agony, but it still made me angry. Everyone except our families seemed to been against us.
The VA back then would treat any veteran for anything, but I had to wait sometimes for six hours to see a doctor. We had to sit in the hall on the floor next to bodies on gurneys. They never had chairs back then. The doctors were medical students who probably knew about as much as we did about medicine. It was not a positive experience at all. I stayed away from the VA for a long time. They didn't have time to deal with Nam veterans.
I don't know how many of us are left, but those Nam veterans I know have been some of my best friends over the years. I truly believe we were and are the true last knights in shining armor because we answered the call without question and signed away our lives to defend our country at a time when we would have everyone against us. Our lives were forever changed. For a long time we were just considered to be psycho killers...for no reason other than we fought for our country when millions of others wouldn't.
I'm glad that perception is changing, but still when I hear someone called a hero today just because they graduated from boot camp, it makes me cringe. I can't help it. It's all about the way we were treated. For Nam vets, that will probably never change