Welcome home, boys. Sorry for the delay
in throwing you a real party. It was all our fault.
We were a lot more callous and angry as
a country (if that's possible) back 40, 45 years ago when you guys were coming home from combat duty in Vietnam.
We were blind. We confused an ugly, bad
war with the troops fighting it. We don't do that anymore. Today, we support our troops fighting our ugly, bad wars.
There's a big difference. The troops didn't
start them. They're just trying to play the hand they were dealt. Too often paying for it with their lives and limbs.
I understand why you 'Nam guys said the
hell with it. Why you dropped out and stayed as far away from the Veterans Administration and service organizations as you
Unlike the World War II and Korea guys,
you got treated like dirt coming home. You were mad and had every right to be.
But it's time to lay those feelings aside
and really come home because we need you again. You're the only ones who can do this job for us.
There are thousands of young men and women
coming home from serving tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who need someone to have a beer with and talk to before picking up
the pieces of their civilian lives again.
They can't open up to their moms and dads,
their wives and girlfriends, or best friends. Not even a service shrink.
They can only open up to someone who has been where they've been, seen what they've seen. Death and destruction on a massive
You guys who fought in Vietnam understand. Ironic, isn't it? We turned our backs on you for so long, and now we need your
"We screwed up on the 'Nam guys, and we don't want it to happen to these young men and women coming home now," says retired
Marine Capt. Dale Dye, a Vietnam veteran.
He served four tours of duty in Vietnam, receiving the Bronze Star for Valor and three Purple Hearts for wounds suffered
in more than 31 combat missions.
If anyone knows what's going on with our Vietnam veterans, it's Dye. He's worked as consultant, writer and actor in the
HBO specials "The Pacific," and "Band of Brothers," and movies "Platoon," "Full Metal Jacket" and "Saving Private Ryan."
Dye was supposed to be the main speaker Monday (Tuesday is National Vietnam Veterans Observance Day) at the Sepulveda VA's
welcome home party for all veterans and their families.
But he had to cancel at the last minute when offered a paying job to help Tom Hanks shoot his latest movie.
What this member of the Granada Hills VFW Post 2323 is seeing in the Vietnam veteran community right now is a strong desire
to come out of the shadows and get involved with soldiers and Marines returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"They see it's time to step up and put an arm around these youngsters and tell them, `I get it. I know what's going on
inside your head, in your gut, right now. Talk to me.'
"We (Vietnam veterans) have been coming home, if you will, in dribs and drabs for 50 years. With this new generation of
troops, we're rushing home for them.
"It's a surprising and beautiful thing to see after 50 years of silence."
The Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans party is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m Monday in the recreation hall in Building 22 at the Sepulveda
VA, 16111 Plumber St., North Hills.
"What the Vietnam vets want most is to have a nice meal, a little entertainment, kick back, relax and have a good time
with no long speeches," says Mary Ann Davis, chief of voluntary services for the Greater L.A. Veterans Administration System.
The party is open to all veterans and their families, but even if you've never served in the military, and just want to
stop by, you'll be welcomed.
Also, the VA has started a gift card program for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with young families so they can
go out and have a good time at family friendly restaurants and movies.
If you'd like to make a donation for a gift card, send it to the Sepulveda VA - attention Voluntary Services, 16111 Plummer
St., North Hills, 91343. Attach a note that says it's for the veterans family dinner and show program.