By Julie Householder | email@example.com
He fought for 10 months. Ten months away from all things familiar. Proudly serving the United States to protect and honor our freedoms. But in just a single moment, passion can be lacerated by pain, like the instant when 4,500 pairs of eyes searched a pier and only saw the 12th Marine Corps District Band welcoming them home. For Lieutenant Colonel James Vanairsdale, it was the feeling of absolute abandonment by the American people.
“Coming back from Korea, they were forgotten before they were even remembered,” said Vanairsdale, who served in the Marine Corps for 20 years. He served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. “I would rather be called a son of a [expletive] than be forgotten.”
Corporal Goodloe Rodgers also noticed the lack of support when arriving back home from the Korean War, when the ship was greeted by a very small group of people, mostly family members.
“Since Korea until this day, people weren’t too interested in what we did,” said Rodgers. “Generally as these crisis end you find that the public in general begins to forget what happened.”
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 22 million veterans in the United States. Veterans may struggle with physical injuries and live with the invisible wounds that come home with them.
“When you talk to the serviceman that served it becomes difficult to tell you exactly what is in our heart,” said Rodgers. “The only people who you can really talk to and open up are the people who were with you.”
Encounters with the public are not always easy for vets. First Sergeant Jim Bellamy served in the Marine Corps for 32 years, and getting recognition for his service can be a bit uncomfortable at times.
“It embarrasses me when people say thank you for your service and my usual response is: ‘No, thank the ones that didn’t come home. They are the heroes, not me,’” he said.
These veterans have different ways of showing support or recognizing servicemen and women. Vanairsdale explains that it is more about making a connection and showing interest than saying thank you. “When you see groups or an individual in their uniform, I would always say comin’ or goin’ to get the conversation started,” he said. “Without saying ‘thank you,’ you can strike up a conversation which I think works. They know you are interested in them. They know you’re thanking them. You don’t have to use the words.”
“Get involved,” advised Rodgers. “Acknowledge them. Don’t let the negatives prevail.”
For Bellamy, it comes to the simple reality that “they stepped up and they served, and they need to be remembered.”