Click here for the WAMC audio for Honoring Our Vets November 2010
WAMC Nov. 4, 2010
Dr. Steven A. Leibo
Is the Professor of International History & Politics at the Sage Colleges
“Honoring Our Vets”
He was just standing there in an airport as I initially sped by anxious to get somewhere during a moment I still remember deeply from the Vietnam War era. A strongly erect solider in an especially well starched full dress uniform who had lined himself up so that almost everyone in the airport could see him. A proud soldier so obviously back from war but whose face had been horribly mutilated by the conflict. A soldier quietly and ever so clearly going out of his way to make sure that everyone saw him. And yet watching carefully as each and every person who passed, feigned indifference
Until they were out of his eyesight—when they so obviously visibly relaxed. As if recovering from a body blow. No I was no better than anyone else, I never spoke to him – Felt just as terrified by his appearance as everyone else.
But I have nevertheless never forgotten him. Never forgotten the sense that he was standing there thinking to himself, You will ignore me no longer! And of course when one came of age in the Vietnam era It’s hard not to be especially aware of how difficult it must have been coming home from the war . To an America so traumatized by the struggle there that far too many of us were incapable of distinguishing that deeply unpopular war from the warriors who fought it, fought it for us an in our name.
And while I did not personally see anyone verbally abused upon return. It was impossible to miss the indifference so many returning vets encountered. Which is one of the reasons despite what I might think as a scholar of international affairs of the differing motivations behind of our current wars in Southwest Asia, I have been particularly proud of my fellow Americans In their effort, at least this time to get that one thing right.
Yes, putting all the politics of the twin struggle aside and simply going out of their way to recognize the service and sacrifices of our returning soldiers. Making an effort to understand not just the physical scars of war but those often deeper psychological ones that lurk within. An effort at national recognition we should all be particularly aware of this upcoming Veterans Day as communities throughout our region prepare to honor those who have put their lives –often without their country even asking on the line. Honoring them with a wide range of activates from community breakfasts and film festivals To public parades like Hartford’ Connecticut “THANK YOU parade which starts off this Sunday, November 7 at 1 p.m at the Connecticut State Capital Building, An effort already nationally recognized as one of the largest salutes across the country. Or Manchester New Hampshire’s Veterans Day Parade starting at Elm Street
Or at my own college here at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York as we kick off, this very evening a discussion of the emotional impact of war With Dr. Ed tick author of War and the Soul, a therapist who has spent his life working with those who found themselves psychologally wounded by the war. Complimented by an open discussion with two visiting Vietnamese veterans from Vietnam itself, former Vietnamese soldiers who fought not only for our allies in South Vietnam but the Viet Cong as well. Including individuals who been involved in Vietnam’s own effort at domestic reconciliation.
Or continuing at Russell Sage all next week a celebration of veterans that runs the a gamut from a documentary film festival including the locally produced From Albany to Saigon, Vietnam & the Capital Region To a full scale mental health conference on meeting the needs of veterans returning from combat, a workshop for those hoping to deal with our returning heroes designed for both professional therapists and family members.
Impressively, a range of events throughout or region all created to help avoid having our vets return home to an undeserved silence indifference