I have been priveledged of late to read some materials in my Civil War History Class that has caused me some moments of empathy and anger. There is an article by Reid Mitchell about the experience of soldiers during the Civil War. When I was reading it, images associated with soldiers returning home from Vietnam came into my mind.
What I read made me heartsick and angry. At first, the Soldiers, both Union and Confederate, were celebrated, picniced, and paraded around like prizes. People wanted to shake their hands, take their photos, and have their babies. After the war drug on, that attitudes toward the soldiers changed markedly. People didn't go to greet them, they didn't want the photos, unless perhaps they were memorial shots, they tried to hide any affiliation with them. Where they were one greeted as heroes, now they were like villains and thieves in the night. Some soldiers experienced being openly shunned by people moving to the other side of the street or turning a corner to get away. It was as if being a soldier was a disease and they might catch it.
These soldiers suffered awful dehumanization to serve for what they believed in. They suffered mentally and physically just to endure racial slurs, curses, and hatred. Some soldiers were never the same as when they left. Some could not come back to society, so they went and lived in the woods or mountains. Some lost everything they owned and their family. Some suffered terrible dreams and flashbacks. All these things being discussed in this article brought to the fore images from Vietnam. Soldiers coming back would be greeted by a small family party in their uniforms so proud and yet the airfield would be completely deserted and silent. They would then be shuffled off home to try and live a **quiet** existence. If they were spotted in uniform on the street protestors would spit on them and shout at them, or try and rip their clothes. What kind of behavior is this?
THESE MEN WERE SOLDIERS. THEY DESERVE NOTHING LESS THAN RESPECT, DIGNITY, AND HONOR.
It is the same today. My father and I have had our vehicles paintballed because they are adorned with military insignias. I have had people turn up their nose at hiring me when I have applied for work when they find out I served. Before that point, they are all smiles and your very qualified. I have walking by or standing waiting for some goings on and heard cruel words spoken about the soldiers and turned to watch the look of disgust on their faces. These things are being spoken about our men and women. It takes everything I have within me not to lash out at these people. They have not one iota of one clue what being a soldier takes. It makes me want to make them vomit on raunchy, nasty soap crammed in their mouths and teeth. They will get over that.
SOLDIERS CARRY EVERYTHING, EVERYDAY WITH THEM OR THEY DIED TRYING TO DEAL WITH THAT BURDEN. I WAS NOT IN A WAR ZONE, I DIDN'T DIE, BUT I GAVE MY LIFE NONE THE LESS. I HAVE PAID WITH MY MIND, BODY, AND SPIRIT LIKE SO MANY OTHERS WITH ME AND BEFORE ME!