I rarely speak publicly about my military experience in Vietnam because I feel lucky to be one of the soldiers who returned home in one piece and in sound mind.
I was in my early 20s, naive and fresh out of college, when I volunteered for the Army. The politicians called Vietnam a "conflict," but to the soldiers on the ground it was "war." When talking about the war I would say to family and friends that I was a "lover" and never a soldier. When I was discharged, there was no military for me and my comrades-in-arms, as it was just best to blend into society and move on with one's life. I was one of the lucky ones able to make the transition. I knew, on the other hand, many soldiers who came home with limbs gone, drug-addicted and brokenhearted.
About two years ago, I visited the Veterans Hospital in the valley and saw an establishment that made me want to cry. Acres of rundown buildings and landscaping, the complex was old and, because of politics and government neglect, reminded me how lucky I was to have been able to transition to civilian live and live comfortably. At the hospital were hundreds of people with serious problems, being pushed around in wheelchairs, crutches and sadness in their eyes. Why wasn't this county honoring these heroes with an environment that was new and cheerful, not old and neglected?