Saturday, August 3, 2013

Honor Flight - Vietnam Edition

I never seem to be able to sleep in.  My FF gave the muppets this big long spiel about going down to the toy room to watch TV when they wake up, don't come talk to momma, she needs to sleep, yada yada yada...and I wake up at 5am.  No rhyme or reason.  And of course I am wide awake.  When we were first married, I would have woken the guy up next to me.  OF COURSE he wants to chat with me.  As the years have flown by I have learned that is just NOT the case and let him sleep.  Which usually leads me to waking up the muppets for entertainment or technology.  And here I am with my laptop - in my lap.


Reading the paper this morning, I read about the latest Honor Flight.  To honor the 40th Anniversary of the end of physical conflict in Vietnam, an Honor Flight out of Oshkosh took 114 randomly selected veterans on the first ever Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight for Wisconsin Veterans.  This is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, for no real reason.  Just because.

Just because our vets lost years of their lives, if not their lives.  In some cases these sacrifices were for a cause no one really understood.  

Just because our vets came home and were expected to pick up where they left off.  No talk of what they saw, who they lost or how things changed at home.

Just because some of our vets were so maltreated upon their arrival back "home" it makes my stomach turn.

Just because their spouses held down the forts for YEARS without their service man/woman.  Babies were born, milestones met, struggles tackled - without them there.

Just because they saw things that would cause the rest of us to never sleep again...and we wonder why they come home and not the same.

Just because I am researching the impact of PTSD on our military and emergency personnel and I see the damage that it causes EVERYDAY.

Just because.
The way the Vietnam vets were treated was a huge reason why I became a history teacher.  Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.  Cliche, clearly, but true none-the-less.

My dad was not in Vietnam.  They started at his feet and never got past them to decide on his vision - ingrown toenails.  His feet kept him out of the war and is probably why I am here today.  I have very little first hand experience with the Vietnam "Police Action" homecomings, or lack thereof.  Just what I have heard and read.  But it was enough of an impact to cause me to sell t-shirts in support of our troops in high school when the first gulf war broke out.  It was enough of an impact to lead me into education as my vocation.  It was enough of an impact for me to lead my middle schoolers to an Operation Comfort drive ten years ago. It was enough for me to take the muppets to Mitchell International Airport to welcome home the last couple rounds of WWII vets coming home from their Honor Flight to DC.   It was enough for me to take time to take the muppets to see the traveling Vietnam Wall.  It was enough for me to have my seniors send letters to the service people struggle to readjust this spring.  It impacted me.  

And it continues to impact me on a much different level now that I find myself married to a firefighter.

There are families with the same concerns I have.  That knock on the door.  That uniform on the porch. But they last for YEARS at a time.

My FF met with CFD yesterday and was dropped off at home by the officer he drove down with.  I was on the phone with my dad when that big red SUV pulled up - EVEN THOUGH I KNEW IT WAS HIM, my stomach dropped.  Sad really, that my Pavlovian reaction was momentary panic, but it was.  Military families have the same fears, but not every third day.  It is every day, for years at a time.

I fuss about not seeing him enough over the course of these last 4 weeks, but the truth of the matter is he came home to me every night.  I complain about how the kids only get sick when he is gone.  But he comes back, every time, within a couple of days and can offer me some respite.  We get grumpy about having to live in the city limits, think about the military families that move just as the kids are making friends, again.  Just as I live a life Jane Q. Public can't imagine, military families live a life that this Mrs. Firefighter can only begin to try and picture.  And these Honor Flights, these thank yous that are DECADES too late, are the least that we can do for the sacrifices our vets and their families have made.

I wish my blog could have the reach that Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band have.  They are to today's vets, what the USO was for our grandparents' generation.  That taste of home.  I wish that my classroom service could reach as many people in need of someone just acknowledging all that was given up for king and  country as the amazing work that they are doing.  And clearly none of my efforts will have the same quantitative impact.  But, for the handful of service people who got a note acknowledging the human side that they are struggling to stay in contact with or the smiles of my little people's flag waving faces, it did make a difference.  It says you are not forgotten.  It says we appreciate you.  It says you are not alone.

Please take the time to reach out to any of the vets you come in contact with on a daily basis.  If you have not seen Honor Flight the Movie, I highly recommend that you make a point of it.  Support the Honor Flights in your area, especially those for our World Wars vets, they will not be with us for much longer.  Take the time to reach out and let our heroes know they are not forgotten, they are indeed loved.

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