The feelings I experience when visiting the VA hospital is one of great appreciation for my fellow vets. I was lucky enough to serve under President Eisenhower before Vietnam and then under President Kennedy in the early stages of Vietnam, but I was never asked to serve in battle and I am grateful for that. Those that did serve in that war were never treated fairly and suffered the insults of their fellow Americans.
That war was a mistake and many of us knew it, but we made a more dreadful mistake by punishing our service men and women who with patriotic hearts did serve.
I recently met a 75 year old man that I knew from my old neighborhood in Queens NY. He served in Vietnam and I had not seen in many years. He was the son of one of my fathers close friends. His name is John. I reminded John of how upset his father was when he enlisted in the army. “I know” he said and then explained that he felt that it was patriotic duty to join the army.
I think this feeling of patriotism was typical of those that served in that war and other wars and the pain we inflicted upon them by not embracing them is our collective shame.
This poem recited by Tony Lo Bianco on youtube was sent to me by Rabbi Paul Swerdlow at the Veterans Hospital in Northport.