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This week’s story is an attempt to explain a Vietnam veteran, of what we earned yet never received and of living with memories unsuccessfully concealed in the deepest recesses of our souls.

This week’s story is an attempt to explain a Vietnam veteran, of what we earned yet never received and of living with memories unsuccessfully concealed in the deepest recesses of our souls.

It is solely my opinion, yet I’m comfortable with the knowledge that among my fellow brothers and sisters, my opinion is one sincerely held by the majority of Vietnam veterans still living.

It’s taken me 45 years to find the audacity to even try, and I appreciate the Covington News for allowing me the platform to voice what may be an extremely difficult endeavor.

Veterans Day this year had all the makings for a tremendous week-long celebration of service, survival and recommitment of veterans to each other. We possess something easily explainable as sibling rivalry, ready to fuss and bicker over respective branches of service or who deserves credit for this accomplishment or who’s to blame for that monumental screw-up. And like siblings we can disagree, exchange insults, and even call each other dreadful names in a thousand dreadful ways. Outsiders, however, who endeavor to interfere or take sides may find themselves surrounded and outnumbered by a well-trained and protective band of brothers and sisters.

Our club is exclusive. Perhaps disorganized at times which means a lack of leadership somewhere in the chain of command, but disorganization can also result from disillusionment. When something as powerful as a Federal Government breaks promises, lies to its soldiers, allows deaths before appointments can be made by a dysfunctional Veterans Administration, yet distributes 142 million in bonuses, and abandons heroic men on a battlefield, then disillusion and disappointment festers into resentment and in extreme situations, defiance.

My Veterans Day week included two trips to Fort Benning: one for the Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame yearly induction and the other for an annual gathering of The Rosie the Riveters Association. Invited to participate in a story-telling event at Callanwolde, I found myself in good company with good speakers and an appreciative and respectful audience. In Canton I had the honor to speak at the memorial for an American icon, Lt. Colonel Ernest “Roy” Reid, who as a young 2nd Lt. was copilot of the first American warplane shot down in WWII. Reid was on a B-17 struggling to land at Pearl Harbor at 0800 on Dec 7, 1941 after being riddled with gunfire from Japanese Zeroes. On fire and forced to crash land on Hickam Field, the big bomber rolled to a stop then broke into two distinct pieces. Reid lived to fight on, completing 50 combat missions in the South Pacific.

The General Ray Davis Middle School sponsored another spectacular Veterans Day Event starting with a Huey gunship of the Army Aviation Historical Foundation landing on the football field so the students had an opportunity to tour the iconic warbird. The Stearman Squadron put on another derring-do airshow in their vintage biplanes, then educator Carol Cain of Lagrange rocked the inside program with her routine as Rosie the Riveter. I had the honor to present Visual Arts teacher Mrs. Kathleen King with a letter of appreciation from U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, and several talented students entertained the gathering.

Restaurants offered veterans free meals, retails stores gave generous discounts, and ‘thank you for your service’ was a repeated tribute all day long. Yes, Veterans Day week had all the makings of an awesome celebration for those who put their lives on the line, and for those who never heard the words ‘welcome home.’ So, what’s bugging me?

Never hearing the words ‘welcome home.’ Perhaps that’s the villain gnawing at my gut, an uneasiness that constantly surges through the veins of Vietnam veterans, a distrust born in the jungles and carried back to the troubled streets of a divided America. We weren’t called heroes, rather, we were insulted as baby-killers, warmongers, and yes, even fools for wearing a military uniform. Disapproval is a bitter pill to swallow, and bitterness, is difficult to cure. Justifiably, the Vietnam veteran’s psyche is dominated by a healthy skepticism of a powerful and uncaring government talented at breaking promises for services rendered. Adding to our apprehension is the resurgence of a seemingly generational breed of professional protesters willing to strip benefits, rights, and attention away from anyone other than themselves.
Veterans should be honored for their service, their sacrifices and their ability to face the revulsions of war yet still function normally after the guns have fallen silent. But make no mistake about it, once again there is an escalating frame of mind to deprive or simply ignore the needs of our men and women in uniform. The explanation is simple.
Some political animals feigning support for our veterans with promises via lip service are only in a holding pattern, for when the political winds shift favorably in their direction they will once again turn on and scorn the very people that protect them. Personally, I feel the winds shifting daily, so as grateful as I am for free grub, a handshake, or a hospitable smile of appreciation, the political specters of Vietnam are warning me to remain vigilant. This is not paranoia, rather, an unshakable distrust of government bred of war and betrayal.

Today, America is engaged in another war which has spawned a brand-new multi-headed Lernaean Hydra smiling its predictable betrayal. We veterans of Vietnam fully understand the treachery of partisan politics, meaning we realize support for the military can be debated, demoted, demonized, then denied. There will never be forgiveness for betrayal, nor can we ever forget who plunged the knives in our backs. We are not unappreciative of public recognition, but we remain very suspicious when politicians gleefully jump on the bandwagon.

God bless the military, and the boys on that long black granite wall in Washington, DC.

Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran, columnist and freelance writer. You can reach him at or