My wife, Julia, and I went to a Memorial Day service in the Weekapaug Chapel this past Sunday, and one of the speakers was a veteran of the Vietnam War who had been wounded several times. But when he came home, he was not greeted as a hero because of the unpopularity of the war in America. He told us that when veterans of the Vietnam War were able to identify another vet, they would say, "Welcome home, brother," because no one else was welcoming them.
Black, white, or Hispanic, it didn't matter. They were all brothers who were bonded by their mutual understanding of the common hell they had all endured. They were also bonded by the lack of gratitude they experienced at home, and dealt with it by nodding their heads knowingly and saying, "Welcome home, brother."
The veteran who spoke at the chapel made the distinction between the war, which was bad, and the veterans, who were good - who did their jobs. He told the small congregation that he hoped those who came home from Iraq received a better welcome than the Vietnam vets did. The vet received applause of agreement from his sympathetic listeners. But will we remember?
Will we remember to say sincerely, "Welcome home, brother," to those who served in an even more unpopular and ill-conceived war than the one in Vietnam? Will we remember when the Bush government forgot them -- tried to hide the coffins and provided criminally negligent medical care at Walter Reed?
It seems to me that, in general, the media has been pretty good in reminding us of the sacrifice, valor, and service of veterans of past wars and in honoring them. But will the media say, "Welcome home, brother," when the veterans in Iraq come home?
President Barack Obama will not bring the troops home all at once; he will withdraw them slowly and responsibly. But he will withdraw the vast majority of them. Will the media say, "Welcome home, brother" in dribs and drabs? Let's hope so. They deserve it.