Within the past few years, my dad has embraced his military service, proudly donning a baseball cap stating: “Vietnam Veteran.” He was even taken aback when he was out enjoying a meal in an area restaurant and the wait staff told him his bill had been taken care of.
The mystery customers left a message for him: “Thank you for your service.”
That moment stands out in stark contrast to when my father returned home from his tour of duty in Vietnam. It was a cold, snowy, blustery night in December 1969 when my mother, as well as other family members, made the trek to the Kansas City Downtown Airport.
There was no fanfare, no pomp and circumstance.
They whisked him home, where he was warmly welcomed by family.
When I was a child, my dad spoke little of his time in Vietnam, sans his colorful reasoning as to why he would never eat rice again in his lifetime, when, as a then-9-year-old, I ignorantly questioned my him about why he wouldn’t eat it at dinner one night.
On rare occasions, my father would speak more often about his time in Vietnam.
Times have changed for Vietnam veterans as well as others who have served throughout the years, and rightfully so. My father, two of my lifelong friends and hundreds of thousands of others who have donned the uniform of one branch of the U.S. armed forces should never have to hang their head in shame; they should be revered for the freedoms we embrace.
Here in Citrus County, we have one of the nation’s largest veteran populations. During the past two weeks, they have been lauded for their commitment to our country. Those celebrations will come to a close at 10 a.m. Thursday with the annual Veterans Day Parade through downtown Inverness, followed by a memorial service at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum.
My first challenge to each of you in the community is bring you family, come line the streets Thursday in Inverness, to cheer on our veterans, shower them with praise and appreciation and thank them for their sacrifices.
My second challenge to those of with you children is educate them about the American military, their storied histories and the men and women who have proudly served our country.
Showing our appreciation to veterans more than one day a year is about respect. Let’s not lose sight of that.
Contact Editor Jeff Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-564-2930.