Maj. Gen. Reddel: If we don't take care of our own, who will?
Editor's note: This article is by Maj. Gen. William Reddel III, the adjutant general of the New Hampshire National Guard.
I would like to thank the more than 2,000 people who were able to attend the first ever Welcome Home Ceremony for our Vietnam Veterans on Saturday, March 30, at the New Hampshire National Guard aviation hangar in Concord.
The turnout for this wonderful group of American heroes was amazing.
In 1789, General George Washington said, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by this country."
As a nation, we've only failed once in recent history to live up to Washington's challenge and that was during Vietnam. Our warriors never justify wars; they follow the orders of civilian leadership, and yet many Americans viewed the Vietnam War as a dishonorable conflict.
They viewed our military men and women the same way, regardless of whether they served in Vietnam or another country. The stigma of participating during the war left our veterans isolated and bitter.
The lack of a proper welcome home, and the war itself, is still a source of anger and frustration.
Fortunately, the nation is in a better place today because those same veterans vowed never again to allow that kind of treatment of our warriors.
And that's why we needed the long overdue ceremony on Saturday to finally say thank you.
Thank the Vietnam veterans for their service to our nation, thank them for looking out for those veterans who came after them, and finally to say welcome home.
One of the best comments I heard after the ceremony came from a Vietnam vet, who said, "I can finally tell my wife I'm home."
There are about 128,000 veterans living in New Hampshire: 46,000 are from the Vietnam era.
Unfortunately, there were many Vietnam Veterans who did not attend the ceremony. They are still bitter. They are still cynical of any effort meant to right the wrong. They still refuse the help they need and so justly deserve.
So how do we reach out to those other veterans?
For me, it's simple. We follow the warrior ethos: "I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit and I will never leave a fallen comrade."
When you see a person with a Vietnam bumper sticker on their car, or wearing a Vietnam Veteran ball cap, thank them for their service and say, "Welcome home."
It will not replace the years of hurt, but it will make their day.
Please continue to support the Vietnam veterans and all the men and women who have worn, and are still wearing, the uniform. Because if we don't take care of our own, who will?