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Thanking those in the Armed Forces

Recognition due for service rendered

Vietnam vets Mike Batnick and Bill Peterson thank those who serve today. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Armed Forces Day allows Americans to thank those who currently serve. That said, it is also a good time to express appreciation to those who have served. This act can take the form of a strong handshake, a solid pat on the shoulder, a long hug, or a noticeable nod of the head.

For many Vietnam veterans in particular, this would be most appreciated.

"I landed at Sea-Tac on my way home to Tacoma," recalled Roger King, "but there was no welcome."

He served with the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, from 1969 to 1970. About his service, all he said is that he saw combat and that he served honorably. The Silver Star pin on the left lapel of his blue coat silently spoke of his service and heroism. Today, he is the commander of American Legion Post 138 in University Place.

"I remember how poorly many vets were treated when they returned home," quietly continued Bill Peterson, who served from 1966 to 1968 as a tail gunner on a B-52.

"It would be nice to be recognized."

This recognition begins by recalling the country's involvement in Vietnam -- it began Nov. 1, 1955, and ended May 15, 1975. During those two decades, approximately 2.7 million servicemembers served in Vietnam.

The wounded numbered over 304,000; the dead numbered over 58,000.

The Vietnam War was controversial; the nation was as much at war with itself as its soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen were in Vietnam. The vast majority of returning veterans came home to indifference and, at times, outright hostility.

"There was a lot of anger for not getting a welcome home then," said Mike Batnick, a veteran who served on the flight deck of the USS Midway in the Tonkin Gulf from 1961 to 1962.

"But there has been a change, there is less anger, but it's still there in some vets."

Some of that change can be traced to March 29, 2012, when President Barack Obama proclaimed the day as Vietnam Veterans Day.

In his proclamation are the words ...

"Yet, in one of the war's most profound tragedies, many of these men and women came home to be shunned or neglected -- to face treatment unbefitting their courage and a welcome unworthy of their example."

Armed Forces Day allows Americans to pay their respects to those who are currently serving. But that does not preclude honoring those who served in Vietnam, or to any other veterans who have served before and after Vietnam.

"Wars are hard to understand by both those who fought and by those who stayed home," concluded King, "but we did our best for each other and our country."

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