My expectation of my arrival in Rochester was that I would meet Bernie, and possibly Jonathan, and we would grab my luggage and quietly head home. That is not exactly how it went. First of all an explanation and a bit of personal history.
In 1969 I returned from Viet Nam having been sent there by the US government as part of an invading military force. The American War in Viet Nam was being protested all across the US and wearing a military dress uniform was an unwise thing to do while traveling. Upon entering the US at Travis AFB I changed into civilian clothes and several hours later quietly met my wife Kathy and daughter Lori at the Philadelphia airport. My mom and Dad had a huge sign in the front yard welcoming me home and there was a celebration there. It was unpopular and unwise to have a big welcome at the airport. Fast forward to 2012.
I was walking through the Rochester airport anticipating a quiet welcome by my wife Bernie. As I said what I got was something completely different. First I spotted the banner. The Chili American Legion has a 20 ft long 3ft high Welcome Home banner that we use for welcoming home today's servicemen and women. I thought, "Oh they are welcoming home some of our military. I should probably ease on by and not get in the way." Then Bernie popped out of the crowed and yelled "You're early!" At that point I was confused, and apparently early. Bernie grabbed me and said something like, "this is for you." Then I started recognizing one person after another. It very slowly dawned on me that this airport welcome home was for me! I went from confusion to disbelief to, well I did not know my face could grin that big. I remember thinking, "what do I do? I don't know what to do." Then my granddaughter came up to me with her sign and I hugged her and said hello. Somebody handed me something and wanted a picture taken then I just started greeting people.
When the news people wanted the interview with the cameras my thought (after traveling over twenty hours) was that I needed to be coherent and say something intelligent. I got the welcome home that I and other veterans of the American War in Viet Nam did not get in 1969 and it was exceedingly sweet.
On this visit I was a guest of the people of Viet Nam. During the community service aspect of my time there I continuously reminded myself that it is not about me. It is about the people I came here to be of service to. When I was welcomed home I thought, "okay now it's about me." On a deeper level, however, I realize It is about all of us. It is about wanting, as Matthew said, "To do it right." It is about all of us getting to have a small piece of healing from a war that even today horribly affects the lives of the people of two countries a half a world away from each other.
In 1969 I was taught how to hate and how to look at human beings as non-human. In 2012 my life has come around to wanting to know how we are all alike even across different cultures. I wanted to touch the lives of the people of Viet Nam and I wanted to be touched by them.....mission accomplished.
Now I have been welcomed home and yes, it was done right, and there are pictures.
|"This is for you!!"|
|"Jaci tell Pop Pop Welcome Home."|
|"I didn't get the script I don't know what I'm suppose to do."|
There are so many things about this trip and this program that are life altering. As Victor said, "Every day in Viet Nam there was something new. Every day I learned something." Yeah Vic, me too bro.
Next vacation learn something new in beautiful Viet Nam.
Hen gap lai