It was not a heroes’ welcome for those returning from the Vietnam War. Fortunately, the public has learned to separate the political decisions that determine a need for war from the role of those who actually fight the war. Today’s soldiers are greeted at airports and flight lines, experience hometown parades, and are openly called heroes.
Not so for Vietnam veterans, who often returned home in civilian clothes so they wouldn’t be identified as military or be taunted by non-veterans. Some admit they had been spat upon in airports, called “baby-killers” in public places.
It was extremely difficult for many of these veterans who had suffered life-threatening experiences in a strange and far-away place to come home to an all-too-often hostile reception.
Slowly a number of places have erected memorials, monuments, and museums dedicated to Vietnam veterans, but they offer little comfort to those scarred by bitter warfare and a cold homefront.
“Even before I joined the Army, I’d visit my high school friends that came home [from Vietnam] at the Jamaica (NY) VA, and I could sense they were different. I felt that if I didn’t visit them, no one else would. Because people were afraid…because they’d heard stories about returning Veterans…” James Burns, Army Veteran 1970-1974
“I recall the reception accorded the returning servicemen and women of that war. No celebrations, no tickertape parades. How does one fathom the swell and intensity of emotions that caused so many to turn on the nation’s defenders? It simply is not possible to reject those who lay their lives on the line for their country. There is no satisfactory answer…” Sam Cordova, Air Force Veteran