National Commander, Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A
A Vietnam war veteran remembers a bad clash with an anti-war protestor and advises youngsters to approach veterans a little differently.
I, like many other returning soldiers at the time, had an unfortunate greeting when I came back from the Vietnam War. I had worn my uniform in the civilian air terminal so that I could obtain a military discount on the cost of the flight home. However, I encountered an anti-war demonstration and an irate woman ran up to me and shouted “baby killer,”or words to that effect. She spit at me, but missed.
When the Iraq War started, I initially feared that another unpopular war would mean great unpleasantness from those who opposed the war, to the soldiers and their families. While watching an anti-Iraq War demonstration on TV, I saw someone with a sign that said “Oppose the War, but Support the Warrior.” Those opposing the war now had it right!
So, how should you greet a veteran? There is, in my opinion, a right way to do it. Go up to that person, look him or her in the eye, put out your right hand, and say, “Sir or Madam, thank you for your service!” Then, shake that person’s hand. You should ask questions about their uniform, the medals on it, or the pins on a veteran’s cap. This conversation will not only educate you, but will also help you connect with that soldier or veteran. It will help you understand what that person did to help your country and serve you in particular.
Just as important is the effect your greeting will have on the veteran or soldier. It makes them not only feel appreciated for the sacrifices they made, but also that the sacrifices were worthwhile.
On Veterans Day, one of the many ways for you to participate is to express your appreciation by engaging with a veteran. This is more than just a random act of kindness. It is a way to help bond veterans and non-veterans to make America a stronger community.