March 29th is Vietnam War Veteran Day and while I was not deployed in Country because no female soldiers were allowed to qualify with a weapon or serve as combat soldiers, I did serve.
Graduating basic took something, not every recruit made it through -- I never thought I would. Upon graduating, I proudly wore my uniform to the airport. Holding my head high, I walked to my gate.
“Hey, Baby Killer,” someone shouted. Stunned, I kept walking. I wish I could tell you it ended there. For the remainder of my tour, I never wore my uniform in public again. I talked with fellow Veterans, men returning from their tour. The harshness of the public was significant, the reactions cruel, the politics of words were violent and more. Many of those young men had not volunteered for this duty. I had.
I am grateful that the public attitude towards veterans who serve has changed and I applaud all those who work on behalf of veterans. However, currently 22 veterans a day commit suicide. This figure is a national disgrace.
“Thank you for your service” -- this phrase grinds on me, even as I know civilians want to let me know that what I did as a soldier matters. Actions speak louder than words. Save your words of thanks and demand legislative action to do whatever it takes to eliminate veteran suicide.
That’s how you serve veterans,
That’s how you can say, “Thank you for your service.”
I’m Lou Ness, and that’s my Perspective.