DEAR ABBY: I just read the letter from "Twice Bitten in Washington" (Nov. 4), who had thanked veterans for their service to our country and received several negative responses. I'm a retired vet, dying from Agent Orange poisoning. I served two tours in Vietnam, and when I returned from Nam, I was called a baby killer, spat upon and refused taxi service because I was in uniform.
America has had a change in attitude since the Vietnam War. Today, many folks appreciate what the military is doing. I have been thanked several times while wearing my Vietnam Veterans hat and it makes me feel great, to the point my eyes water.
Tell "Twice Bitten" to continue thanking the military vets. It means a lot, especially to vets like me. Sure beats being called a baby killer. -- VIETNAM VET
DEAR VIETNAM VET: I received many letters like yours from Vietnam vets who were also not thanked for their service when they returned home. Like you, they very much appreciate hearing a "delayed" thanks for their service. I would like to thank you and all the readers who responded to that column with such emotional and sometimes gut-wrenching stories. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I would like to offer "Twice" an explanation for the reaction she received. I served two tours in Iraq and lost some good friends. When vets return home from war, home is a scary place. The life we lived and breathed is no longer. After spending so much time fearing the unknown and protecting ourselves physically and emotionally, we can't stop.
Many of us came home feeling guilty that we lived while others died -- ashamed that we might not have done enough, that we should have been the one who was laid to rest, that maybe if we had looked harder, fought harder, we wouldn't have lost a soldier.
When I returned home, I reacted the way "Twice" described. I was resentful that someone would take the time to honor me, but not the friends I lost. It was a long time before I realized that by honoring me with their sincere thanks, they were honoring every soldier we have ever lost. Now when I am thanked, I shake hands, I hug, and I thank them for their respect.
To "Twice": Never stop! Do not be afraid. We are not hateful or angry. We are scared and sad. Your expression of thanks means more than any parade, any medal or any award could ever mean. -- BRANDON IN INDIANA
DEAR ABBY: As a soon-to-be-retired career Army officer, I am one of those who feel awkward when people thank us for doing our jobs. The Army was a career I chose, knowing the hardships and what would be asked of me. The military is filled with all kinds of people, and even though I may not always be in the mood for a stranger to approach me when I'm out and about, deep down inside it is refreshing to know that what I do is appreciated. -- PHIL IN WASHINGTON STATE
DEAR ABBY: One day while walking in a cemetery, we saw an elderly gentleman leaning on the arm of his caregiver, and we realized he was looking at a veterans memorial. My wife approached and asked if he was a veteran. He looked at her and said "Yes," and she said, "Thank you very much for your service and your bravery." He immediately teared up and croaked out a "Thank you." His caregiver rolled her eyes.
My wife got into her face and said, "You have a hero on your arm, so show him some respect!" The veteran cried harder, grabbed my wife's hand and said, "No one has ever said that to me, especially my caregiver." -- KIMIT IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR READERS: May I suggest some other ways to thank vets and those currently in the military? Volunteer at a veterans hospital and bring flowers and toiletries. If you live near a base, volunteer to support the USO at your local airport to make travel more comfortable for our servicemen and women. Donate to Wounded Warriors or similar organizations, or the Veterans of Foreign Wars or Disabled American Veterans.