World War II veterans were treated as heroes when returning to the United States. However, those veterans returning home from Vietnam and other assignments around the world at that time were treated differently. They were called baby killers, psychos, drug addicts and war mongers by those protesting the war. Early on, the two veterans’ organizations, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, refused to accept Vietnam veterans as members, citing that Vietnam was a police action and not a war. A famous movie star was in North Korea supporting the enemy while the Vietnam War was ongoing. Finally, on Jan. 11, 1977, President Jimmy Carter granted an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft (draft dodgers) during the Vietnam War and fled to another country. How do you think that made the Vietnam era vets, who showed up and did their duty, feel?
Now fast forward to the late 1990s when I heard someone say “Thank you for your service.” I spun around, incredulously, to see a friend who knew that I had served. I was totally shocked, having been shunned by society for years regarding military service. It has become apparent that societal attitudes have been changing in recent years in a positive sense with respect to veterans. Nowadays, it is common to receive a, “Thank you for your service” from people you don’t know, which is a wonderful feeling. Businesses are offering discounts to veterans in appreciation of their service. The Department of Defense has established the Vietnam War Commemoration, administered through local organizations such as the DAR, to honor Vietnam-era veterans who served in the US Armed Forces between Nov. 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975, regardless of location of service. The budget for the Veterans Administration, a federal agency providing various services to veterans, has increased significantly in the last 20 years. This is a wonderful development and veterans really appreciate it. Now society considers the military as an instrument of the current policy. Most people understand that any disagreements with the policy should be taken up with those who develop the policy and not be critical of the military.
In honor of Veterans Day, the following are some of the activities planned in Rochelle: Roberts Armory WWII Museum open Sunday, Nov. 6 from 1-4 p.m.; veterans’ breakfast will be held at Rochelle Township High School on Nov. 11 starting at 8 a.m..; Veterans Day service at St. Paul Lutheran School after the 8:45 a.m. service; Veterans Day ceremony at the Rochelle Veterans War Memorial at Lawnridge Cemetery on November 11 at 11 a.m. with the mayor, VFW & American Legion providing speakers; and a Veterans Day commemoration at the First Presbyterian Church at the 9 a.m. service on Sunday, Nov. 13.
To all veterans out there, “Thank you for your service.”