By: Elaine Marze
“If you won’t stand behind our troops, please feel free to stand in front of them!” This statement represents my feelings pretty well. I grew up during the 1960’s when war protestors consistently made prime-time news preaching, “Make love, not war!” We watched on television as returning Vietnam veterans got spat on and called “baby killers,” among other derogatory terms.
Growing up, I lived on the edge of Fort Polk’s training range where the sounds of sonic booms and exploding bombs were a frequent symphony. England and Barksdale Air Force Bases were within a hundred miles north and south of us so the kind of anti-military bias we watched on television was not noticeable in my world. Unfortunately, many of the young men including the man I married, who fought in Vietnam had to fly in and out of airports where protesters hung-out to spew their vitriol. No wonder so many ‘Nam vets felt bitter about their homecoming reception.
Many American families were touched by Vietnam, and us boomers lost school friends and family members to the high body count. The draft, if not patriotism, ensured that baby-boomers and prior generations served in the armed forces. My daddy was with the 82nd Airborne and his four brothers served with various branches of the military. As evidenced by Memorial and Veterans Day congregations when pastors asked veterans to stand up for recognition in decades past, nearly every man stood. Today, whenever veterans are asked to stand, it is mostly the gray-haired population who rise to their feet.
Past rosters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars were filled with World War and Korean vets, but the absence of Vietnam era men has contributed to a marked decline in active memberships. It may be that the hostility these veterans were shown upon their return from duty caused them to shun organizations that celebrated their participation. The parades and enthusiastic welcomes given to First and Second World War and Korean troops who came back home as heroes encouraged the openness whereby veteran organizations flourished. Thankfully, most of today’s veterans are being treated like the heroes they are, and multiple organizations are supporting wounded warriors.
Still, many small town American Legion posts are closing as are the American Legion Auxiliaries. Such a shame because the Auxiliary’s passed their 100th birthday, and their slogan is Service not Self, a concept not real common in today’s society, but one the country needs. God bless our veterans!