“Welcome home and thank you for your service.”

For the first time since we married several years ago, my husband and I do not have medical insurance through a private health insurer. Instead we are covered by two United States government programs.  By virtue of age and his military service, he qualifies for Medicare and the Veterans Administration (VA) care. As his spouse I qualify for CHAMPVA, the Civilian Health and Medical Program. I appreciate these programs, even though none are perfect and have some definite drawbacks, to both patients and physicians (that is not the subject of this post). But it is admirable that our government has programs in place to address the health and medical care of its citizens, especially those to whom it owes a debt- senior citizens whose work has built our country to where it is today; and veterans who have served to protect and defend it.

Military veterans today are held in high regard, and receive public and private recognition in many ways. This was not the case 40 years ago, when VietNam era veterans like my husband were not respected or appreciated. The public’s anger at our government for pursuing an unpopular war was all too often directed at them. They were blamed, and unfortunately accepted the shame of mistakes made by others. When called upon, they served their country but their country did not serve them well.

Fortunately, that has changed. A national monument honoring VietNam veterans now stands in Washington, D.C., as well as smaller memorials elsewhere. There is a travelling “Wall” , a replica of the one in the capital. My husband has  a car tag, caps and shirts identifying him as a veteran; when he wears them in public, it is rare that someone does not come to him and thank him for serving. Sometimes they will ask about his service experience, especially if they are also a veteran. Fellow veterans always offer a hand, saying “Welcome home.”

We have met relatives of service members who eagerly share their loved one’s story. Sometimes, it is a story of one who did not come home. These stories are often heart wrenching and we walk away choked up and silent.

To all of you who do or have served in the military, and to your loved ones-

“Thank you for your service. We can never repay our debt to you. “

Please leave the name of a veteran you want to honor.

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The travelling “Wall”- replica of the VietNam Veterans Memorial

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Tuesday Travels- VietNam, week 1

April 30, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the official end of United States military involvement in VietNam. On that day in 1975, the American Embassy in Saigon was evacuated as the North Vietnamese army entered the city, thereby establishing what they now observe as “Reunification”.

via The Vietnam Center and Archive: Exhibits – The Fall of Saigon.

My husband and I have travelled to VietNam to serve on humanitarian aid teams with Vets with a Mission (VWAM).

a husband and wife clown team; Vietnamese had never seen clowns

a husband and wife clown team; Vietnamese had never seen clowns

DSC00105 DSC00114 DSC00124 DSC00144 DSC00154 DSC00040 DSC00044 In 1988 VWAM was founded by a small group of VietNam veterans who wanted to make a positive impact on the country in which they had served. Like my husband, many other veterans have served on their teams, as well as their spouses, children and other interested persons.

National Geographic Traveller:Vietnam

Every Tuesday in April I will show you the country of VietNam as it has been since the end of that conflict. Please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments.