Nation learns hard lesson

Farmersville, Texas, was the site this week of a display that meant a great deal to this blogger, as it reminded me of how much our great nation has grown into a “more perfect Union.”

Wreaths Across America is a national organization dedicated to honoring Americans who have fallen in battle. The group lays wreaths on veterans’ graves each year and the Farmersville group is as active any community’s organization involved in this noble effort.

I covered this event the other day working for the Farmersville Times, which is my part-time gig these days.

But here’s the deal. The exhibit, featuring a 48-foot trailer full of artifacts honoring those fallen heroes, this week contained a special exhibit honoring those of us who served in Vietnam during a troubling era in American history.

The organizers know that I had served for a time in Vietnam. They took my picture, gave me a “welcome home” pin, asked me to sign a white board inside the trailer, provided me with a ballcap honoring Wreaths Across America. They thanked me repeatedly for my service during the Vietnam War.

I received a commemorative coin that says: Our Nation’s blood and treasure from a generation ago deserves the Nation’s thanks and gratitude, something they did not receive when they came home from Vietnam!

That is true. We weren’t welcomed home with parades and salutes. Indeed, during that time, too many Americans who opposed the war considered the men and women who served to be complicit in a policy they found objectionable.

They blamed us for decisions made in Washington, D.C. They did not understand that those who served were carrying out orders handed down to them. They were lawful orders and failure to obey them was punishable under military law.

It is remarkable, therefore, to see the evolution our nation has gone through as we have worked our way past those divisions.

I was not a combat soldier. I did not receive direct threats against me when I came home. I was never spat on or called dirty names. But I know others who did suffer the indignities of a nation that — in the moment — did not know any better.

We have grown from that terrible time. We are a better place today simply by honoring the individuals who suit up to defend our beloved nation against those who would do us harm.

I was delighted to receive a heartfelt “welcome home.”