We can’t let it happen again

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In commemoration of Veteran’s Day the History Channel has shown a series of documentaries on Viet Nam and World War II. Last week viewers were greeted to videos, documentaries and interviews with World War II vets.

It was gratifying to see what America can do when it combats a common enemy and then pulls together as one nation. America did this during the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II and Korea. We witnessed America at its’ finest during Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom but there was a time when we, as a nation fell short.

When Americans usually came home from war America embraced the returning soldiers, sailors and airmen with love and dignity. The History Channel documentary showed downtown New York in mass euphoria when the announcement was made that World War II was over. Hugs and kisses were plentiful, usually from total strangers. Life magazine’s cover displayed a sailor in an emotional embrace and kiss that caught the essence of the moment and is still occasionally seen when VJ Day is discussed.

I had a chemistry instructor that told his class that when the war was over he would go into a restaurant in uniform and never had to pay for a cup of coffee. Some stranger would pay for it. This was inspirational for anyone that lives in this great country.

The Union Museum of History and Art in Farmerville displayed an exhibit that was to depict the military coming home from Viet Nam. The exhibit itself was a collection of artifacts that disclosed the life of the American fighting man from Union Parish during his time in Nam. Walking through the exhibit a person will see enlarged pictures, medals, weapons and stories from men that were proud to have served their country. One decorated table grabs the heart to a point of breaking as it depicted a picture of a young African American that was wounded and taken prisoner. He has yet to be reunited with his family. The local Veterans of Foreign Wars provides guides for visitors and welcome guests to the museum that will dis play the exhibit through December.

Last Thursday the museum sponsored a panel discussion where several Viet Nam vets from the Local VFW unit were present to discuss their return to Louisiana and civilian life. It was nothing to compare to the outgoing display of affection witnessed to wars either before or after the conflict. Several vets said that when they returned they were cautioned to not wear their uniforms in public. One man said that he arrived at 2:00 in the morning and was told he would probably not have a problem since few protesters were near the base. Few realized there were problems until they returned. One told of walking through the Los Angeles airport, witnessed two white haired women spitting on two young recruits. He exploded, was taken into custody, escorted to the plane and came home to his wife and newborn child. Another told of being informed by an airline agent that the USO had a place to shower, recommended the soldier change to civilian clothes and the airline no longer required the military to wear their uniforms when flying.

This was America at its worst and should never happen again. These young men and women went to war for the benefit of the United States government. They deserved the respect and heart-felt thanks of the American citizenry. When in Saudi Arabia and the troops began pouring in for Operation Desert Shield and later Desert Storm, a British friend told me that America needed a Desert Shield after Viet Nam. My response was not nice but later in life I realized he was correct. The outpouring of genuine affection for our troops was just what America needed.

Unfortunately America is teetering on another Viet Nam style appreciation for those that put their lives on the line every day and this must cease.

The uniforms are not camouflage nor olive drab; they are blue. A level of respect is declining among those that want to see a great nation falter while attacks on our men and women of the police forces are increasing. Images of police standing at attention while protesters spit on them is reprehensible. Videos of police having buckets of water poured on them in New York City, while they are not allowed to take action is shameful. Police forces in large cities being demonized by elected town councils, is disgraceful while the same town councils vote to reduce police funding. This has to cease. We cannot have a Viet Nam style appreciation for those that are here to protect the American citizen. We cannot look back 20 years from today and realize that we should have been better, done more and shown compassion to those that serve.

God Bless America.

Tuffy Fields may be reached by emailing thelouisianaexplorer@yahoo.com.