Back in the early part of the Afghan War, along with the Iraq War, the veterans coming home were welcomed by the people of the United States with enthusiasm and with much honor and respect. It was the kind of welcome that we Vietnam veterans never received. Those Afghan and Iraq veterans understood that and, in many cases, reached out to we Vietnam Veterans to express their respect and honor for us, now knowing themselves the realities of war and the sacrifices that are made on the battlefield for one another.
For Vietnam veterans, the generosity and respect those younger veterans offered to us, gave us for the first time, real feelings of acceptance, of recognition, of having done something noble in our own war. After almost 50 years, we started openly wearing our baseball caps emblazoned with our units or with the words “Vietnam Veteran” on them. For the first time, we started having people come up to us to actually thank us for our service.
It was a bit dizzying. I remember well how those new feelings of acceptance, of recognition were at first awkward, but gradually brought about a new level of inner peace in me. It was like coming out of a cave. Because of the respect that our Afghan and Iraq combat veterans showed us, the public was freed up at times awkwardly, sometimes shyly, to offer us that long overdue simple respect. Those were heady times for us.
When Saigon fell in April of 1975, we were filled with a kaleidoscope of emotions that were very much like those being felt by our Afghan War veterans today. The swiftness of the Taliban’s offensive to take over the country, the pictures coming out of Afghanistan this past week so eerily like those that came out of Saigon in April of 1975, have raised the same kinds of questions and feelings of abandonment, self-doubt, and anger in our Afghan War veteran brothers and sisters that we experienced back then, almost 50 years ago.
It is time for us Vietnam veterans to return the favor and to stand by our Afghan Veterans. We need to tell them with confidence, from experience, that what they did was not only noble, good and effective, but that their sacrifices counted for a great deal of good for the Afghan people. Their service and sacrifice is meaningful, it was noble in purpose. They stood up for one another, they cared for and defended the Afghans, they honored their duties to the nation, their services and to their fellow warriors to the left and to the right of them in the field of battle. They upheld the dignity, the esprit de corps and the honor of American military history. They can hold their heads up high knowing that their service was not in vain.
They did not lose the war, just as we Vietnam veterans did not lose our war. Those who fought in the field, those who supported the troops on the ground from the rear, all of those who served in Afghanistan answered the call and took the risks and made the sacrifices that military service to the nation requires of those who have the courage and the commitment to give of themselves for causes greater than themselves. You are to be honored, each and every one of you.
Speaking for my fellow Vietnam veterans, you have our commitment, to hear your stories, to listen to your concerns, to support you through the hard times. We know what you are feeling. We want you to know that you can count on us in the good times that are ahead and in the bad times.
We’ve been there. We know how important it is to have that support.
We Vietnam veterans say to all of our Afghan veterans, to all of the Gold Star Families of the Afghan War; we respectfully and enthusiastically affirm your service and sacrifices; we honor your self-sacrifices on behalf of the nation and the Afghan people. We will never forget. We are here for you whenever you need a battle buddy to walk with you. You are our heroes. We offer you our honor, our respect and our love. We will be faithful forever.
Hooah! Fair Winds! Fly High! Semper Paratus! Semper Fi!Whizzco