For Our Vietnam Veterans

Today is Vietnam Veterans Day, so we are re-sharing an article from a couple of years ago about a few particular Nam vets who left quite an impact on us, and taught us it's never to late to say Thank You.

A slight diversion from our normal topic... this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Putting aside complicated politics and issues that came out of the war, when our fellas came home they were treated like trash. Many of the vets we've talked to thought that they were going off to fight Communism and save the world, just like their predecessors the WWII veterans.

Coming home, then, only to be welcomed by being spit on, having things thrown at them, and called "Baby Killers," & "Murderers," was very demoralizing and crushed the spirits of many. One vet in particular, Mr. Adam, told us that he was treated so poorly after returning, that he retreated to the confines of his military career; rarely leaving the base, and almost never communicating with people outside his Army life. In the early 2000s, when there was a boost to show proper appreciation for the troops overseas, he felt very bitter. 

Last year when we went as guardians on Austin Honor Flight, we had the pleasure of traveling with many Vietnam Veterans. Before the trip was halfway done most of them were in tears at the gratitude they were being shown -for the first time. After all these years it didn't seem possible for them, but it was! At the end of the trip, we asked one of the vets, Mr. D'Amore what those two days had meant to him. He said two words, "Healing and closure." After all these years, there was finally healing and closure.

In our group was a set of friends (including two pairs of brothers) who were all born and raised in the little town of Granger. They did everything together, even went off to war together. Serving their time overseas, they eventually all came home -together. We like to think of them as the "Granger Boys".

Last year they decided to sign up for an Honor Flight. Gathering at one of the houses, they filled out the applications and mailed them in one envelope to Austin Honor Flight. If they were going to do this, they wanted to do it together. And they did.

Throughout the whole Honor Flight they were practically inseparable. Shedding tears of relief and joy, remembering their comrades, and receiving the welcome they never had. "There was no fanfare," they told us, "We just stood around. This is our welcome home. It's like having a baby, we feel that good about it... when you're baby's born you have tears. And you have tears when you go through that airport." All their lives they had done everything together, and now they had finally received their welcome home -together. Welcome home Granger Boys.

Don't forget these men, the Veterans of Vietnam. They fought in a messy, messy war; many of them coming home with great scars. It's an easy thing to say thank you. As Mr. Mike said, "Just a handshake is worth ten times a medal!"

A Korean War Veteran's Story

A few months ago, at a Victory Japan Remembrance day event, we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Creswell (right), a combat veteran of the Korean War. He was in tears as he thanked Mr. Slief (left), for his service in WWII. "I'm wearing my uncle's hat," he said. "He was on a bombing mission and never came back. They found this hat in his locker. I wear it to all events like this. I'll never forget him. Really, you guys are my heroes. I just missed the war. I went in in 1950 and all my trainers and were WWII veterans. They called me "kid" like I was their younger brother and they taught me how to fight. If it hadn't been for you guys, I would have been killed." Pointing to his ear he said, "See this ear? In Korea, a Chinese soldier came at me with his bayonet and was going to stab me. I ducked and he sliced my cheek and cut that piece off my ear. I had to have 222 stitches on my face. My girlfriend called me scarface. If the WWII guys hadn't taught me how to fight, I wouldn't have made it. I owe everything to you all. You're my heroes. Thank you."

Growing up Mr. Creswell sold newspapers on the streets of Burbank, California (just down the road from his good friend Debbie Reynolds). "You guys were out there making the headlines and I was selling them." When we asked what his biggest headline was, he told us, "the Invasion of France. I was in school and the paper man came and told me to come sell papers. He gave me these huge stacks. All afternoon I sold them [for a nickle] a penny profit for me, making $30 the end of the day."