Tim Timmons | Crawfordsville, IN

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December 11, 2017

Veterans didn't use to get the gratitude

There won't be a Paper Tuesday as we all take a few moments to remember and honor our military veterans.
I can't think of many things more appropriate.
For those of us who lived through a time when veterans weren't so appreciated, the outpouring of affection, admiration and gratitude for veterans today is great to see, and long overdue.
I've listened to a lot of men talk about coming home from Viet Nam (it didn't become Vietnam until sometime later). Forget the warm and fuzzy commercials, the surprise reunions at school convocations and the countless television and Internet videos showing hugs and tears and smiles. It wasn't even close.
It was a different world.
For one thing, soldiers in uniform could fly standby for free. That created a dilemma. Wear the uniform and run the risk of getting confronted, yelled at, spit on or worse? Or, take off the clothes that you just spent two years paying for in sweat and blood, buy a ticket and avoid the hate?
It was a hell of a position to be in. Thank God it's over. Well, at least for some of us. For those who went through it, I doubt it'll ever really be over. Sure, time has dulled the memory, taken some of the sting away. But just last week one veteran told me that he made the choice to take off the uniform because his sergeant suggested it. He said it's a decision he's regretted ever since.
He's wrong. He served his country (and all of us) honorably and well. He'll never in his life have a reason to hang his head. There was no right or wrong back then in those decisions. It was what it was. No veteran should let the boneheaded actions of others give them a moment of doubt. Teddy Roosevelt, another veteran, said the credit belongs to the man who was actually in the arena. Veterans were in the arena. Bystanders and critics were not.
What the hell was wrong with us, those who were not in the military? I have no idea. It's too easy to say it was a different time. Of course it was. Yesterday was a different time as well. That's not a reason. Was it because we saw a president gunned down on a Dallas street? Was it because our own government shot and killed four college students in Ohio? Was it because another president was connected to a burglary and run out of office?
I don't know. I was there. So were many of you. I still don't know.
I do know this. There are reasons to be disappointed. Not my friend, the veteran who took off his uniform to avoid a potential confrontation. The disappointment should lie with the nation and some of us who didn't step up to say thank you, or worse.
Veterans Day won't change that. What's done is done. But tomorrow gives everyone the opportunity to make sure it never happens again.






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