In 1971, I was flying out of San Francisco International Airport. I had been in the Vietnam War recently and had learned to always look up; the VC would put trip lines just above eye level that would set off booby traps.
Above the arrival door was a balcony that allowed people from the street to see who was arriving. This was before 9/11. There was no airport security. We were all normal then. We did not have to take our shoes and clothing off to fly on a plane.
I saw this gaggle of hippies walk in the door from the street carrying signs and a couple of cans with liquid in them. At that time, approximately 25 Army men with sea bags on their shoulders walked in a door from the tarmac – they were obviously coming back from Vietnam.
The hippies leaned over the balcony rail and spit and poured some kind of fluid on these poor guys while shouting derogatory sayings and mocking them.
I could see this unfold from where I was standing. It was the first and last time in my life that I was filled with rage – I saw red. I tried to find a way to get up to that balcony. My intent was to punish those lowlifes.
This incident really left a bad taste in my mouth, and I hated the hippie movement. How could these creatures punish men who were drafted by a Democratic president and sent against their will to fight in a war that had a no-win strategy conceived by old liberal men and women in Washington, D.C.?
The war divided the country; most of the young did not want to fight. The old, especially the World War II crowd, thought it was a walk in the park compared to the Big One, WWII. If you were in the armed service and had short hair, none of your contemporaries would have anything to do with you. If you went out socially, you could find companionship with older people.
I would drive my truck into San Diego, park in a structure and go to the movies. On a few occasions, I had my windshield broken because I had a military base sticker on it. I spent four hours one night in the back of my truck, hoping to find the person who was going to rebreak my windshield. My thoughts were that something else would be broken but not my windshield.
The rudeness and antisocial attitude of the liberal antiwar movement was very demoralizing. It was something that I will never forget: We were called baby killers.
I really enjoyed being in the service, and the best time of my life was going to Vietnam. The country was beautiful, the people were very brave and the national food was great. Most of the men in my team did not want to come back to the U.S.
Fast forward 40 years, I started volunteering for Warriors Weekend in 2012. My first job was in the kitchen preparing and cleaning up. A year later, I was given a job to drive a van. I transported the men and women from Port O’Connor to the community center or to the doctor if they became ill.
I got to know some of the injured. They would talk about their experiences, and I would listen. Even though I had the privilege of fighting in the Iraq War as well, they had a completely different viewpoint on their war.
They were not bitter about the citizenry; many were lost souls. By hanging out with these Marines and soldiers, I was able to let go of my animosity of things that happened 40 years earlier.
Seeing vast groups of folks from Houston to Victoria wave at the bus procession was really good for me. The people of South Texas are a cut above the rest of the country – very patriotic and gracious.
Who else donates at fundraisers, volunteers, drives their boat and attends a huge dinner to help folks they do not even know? Nowhere except Texas.
My wife, Barbara, was the organizer of their Vietnam War Parade. More than 500 Vietnam vets came and were finally “welcomed home.” Only in Texas.
I appreciate what Warrior’s Weekend has done for me and the Veterans they have helped. My first war had social implications; the Iraq/Afghanistan War had IED and PTSD issues. Warriors Weekend has helped us all. Thank you, Ron and Sherry Kocian, Michael Petrash and the hundreds of volunteers and donors who make this possible.
You have helped more than you will ever know.