“Welcome home and thank you for your service.” Veterans Day

The public’s anger at our government for pursuing an unpopular war was often directed at the service members who believed they were doing the right thing by serving their country. They were blamed, and unfortunately felt shame for the mistakes made by those in authority.

On the 11th day of November every year, we in the United States pause to honor the men and women who have served in our armed forces. We call it Veterans Day.

Military veterans today are held in high regard, and receive public and private recognition in many ways. This was not the case 40-50 years ago, when Vietnam veterans like my husband were not respected or appreciated.

The public’s anger at our government for pursuing an unpopular war was often directed at the service members who believed they were doing the right thing by serving their country. They were blamed, and unfortunately felt shame for the mistakes made by those in authority.

When called upon, they served their country but their country did not serve them well. Perhaps saddest of all, they received little if any welcome when they came home.

Vietnam veterans statue in Washington, D.D.

A national monument honoring Vietnam veterans now stands in Washington, D.C., as well as memorials elsewhere, like the one in Angel Fire New Mexico. There is a travelling “Wall” , a replica of the one in the nation’s capital.

a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall with an American flag and a wreath of red, white, and blue flowers
a travelling replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. visits towns throughout the United States

My husband has caps and shirts identifying him as a veteran; when he wears them in public, people will 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.”

A ceremony honoring a fallen soldier at the Vietnam veterans memorial in Angel Fire, New Mexico

We meet 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-

“Welcome home and thank you for your service. We can never repay our debt to you. “

My husband, Raymond Oglesby wrote a personal account of his military experience, here is an excerpt-

” I didn’t want to ever go to Vietnam again when I came home in 1972 after a one-year tour of duty with the United States Army. I was stationed with the Americal Division, 3/18 Field Artillery Battalion near Tra Bong, a major village located about 25 miles west of Chu Lai, the headquarters of the Americal Division, on “China Beach” at the South China Sea.

When I came home, I did not talk about my involvement in the Vietnam War for over fifteen years. I only told two or three people what really happened. I thought only  another Vietnam vet could understand. “

Continue reading at-

From Bullets to Blessings-One man’s journey to recovery from war

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

                              Dr. Aletha 

Two Words That Changed My Life

our “happily ever after” did not match reality. Our marriage was often tense, unsatisfying, and distant  and we did not understand why. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

In college I joined Chi Alpha, a faith-based student group. When I started dating  a young man of a different belief, he enjoyed coming to the gatherings with me and my friends liked him. . We were fond of each other, but his feelings grew stronger and more serious than mine.

I felt it only fair to end the relationship. We parted amicably but he left our group; it was awkward for both of us. Although I felt the breakup was necessary, I grieved for the loss of our friendship.

One evening several of us were talking when a new member of our group joined us. We knew little about him other than he had recently left the Army and started attending our college.

He looked at me and said, “Where is John tonight?” (not his real name) No one spoke as everyone looked from me to him and back to me. Apparently he was the only one who didn’t know we had broken up.

Finally, one of the girls softly explained, “They aren’t dating anymore.”

Everyone remained silent, I suppose assuming I was upset at the reminder. I wasn’t upset but I realized everyone else was uncomfortable. I didn’t want our new friend to feel bad about the mistake, so I tried to make light of it. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head.

“That’s right,” I said smiling.  “I’m available.”

With that, everyone, including me, laughed. Thinking back now, I puzzle why I said that. It was out of character for me, a confirmed introvert, and besides, I did not need or want another romantic relationship with anyone. I was planning to attend medical school, and romance did not fit into that plan.

However, the young man took me seriously, calling me a few days later to ask for a date. And despite my reluctance to become involved, I said yes.

“What harm could it do?” I thought. “Why sit in the dorm alone on Friday night?”

That night I learned about Raymond’s past. He separated from the Army after serving for three years. He had already earned a bachelor’s degree and was attending graduate school with his veteran’s benefits. I casually asked if he had been stationed overseas. He said yes- he had served in Germany and in Vietnam. I did not realize those words also would change my life.

soldiers at a remote military base
various scenes from the firebase where Raymond was stationed in VietNam; I understood nothing about what happened there.

This was 1972 and  the American war in Vietnam was raging. The United States government needed soldiers to carry out the engagement, and was drafting them, which which they and their families  dreaded. The war was unpopular and divided our country. We watched the course of the conflict nightly on television news (no Internet  or social media then).

Raymond was the first person I knew personally who had served in Vietnam. Service members and veterans of that war were portrayed in the media as fighting an unnecessary, unjustified war at best and as baby killers at worst.

Today military service members and veterans are honored and considered heroes . Today’s veterans feel proud of what they do; not so for those who served in Vietnam.

library interior
The reading room of the library looks the same as it did 40 years ago.

Over dates at  football games, church, social events and study times our feelings for each other grew. from friendship to love. He asked me to marry him a few weeks later, but I wouldn’t commit so soon. We married about 2 years later, as he completed his master’s degree.

Soon after our wedding I started medical school, graduated and started practicing.  He pursued a career in the Information Technology industry. We raised two sons, traveled, attended church.

But our “happily ever after” did not match reality. Our marriage was often tense, unsatisfying, and distant  and we did not understand why. We did not communicate well. He felt I was demanding and controlling. I felt he was insensitive and selfish. We had to look to the past to find the reason for the pain in our present.

family skiing on mountain
one of many family ski trips

Military medicine now recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a common result of service in combat; 40 years ago it was unrecognized and untreated. There were no support groups, counselling or rehabilitative services available.

My husband said little about his military service, so for years we both suffered the effects of unrecognized PTSD. By the mid-1980s veterans’ groups pushed to recognize the service of Vietnam veterans and encouraged discussion about the psychic trauma many of them dealt with; and with that came opportunities for treatment and healing.

army veteran standing next to a floral bouquet at a memorial
We always visit the traveling Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall when it comes to our area.

Through counselling and a support group my husband faced the past and gained a will to move forward. After reading a book , A Missing Peace, written by another Vietnam veteran, he considered taking a trip back to Vietnam and after much thought and prayer, signed up, although we were both apprehensive.

He chose to travel with Vets with a Mission , VWAM,  a faith based non-profit organization whose mission is “reconciliation” between former enemies in the Vietnam war, and also within the veterans’ themselves.

By touring the country and meeting Vietnamese people in peacetime, Raymond began moving past the painful memories and creating a new history. He found a country still suffering from the after effects of many years of war, and found a new purpose for his life- to help the very country that had caused us so much pain.

man with Vietnamese boys laughing
Raymond making friends and having fun with some Vietnamese boys

That trip led to another, and another, and another- thirteen trips  serving on volunteer teams to Vietnam with VWAM.  He served by teaching the computer technology he spent years honing and mentored Vietnamese professionals as they developed skills like his.

I accompanied him on many of these trips, serving as physician on medical teams, treating poor Vietnamese citizens in free clinics. We made friends with other veterans and their families, and with Vietnamese people, who often respected American Vietnam veterans more than Americans do.

Raymond found “reconciliation”  for himself and we experienced it in our marriage.  It was a process and still is.


All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

2 Corinthians 5:18, VWAM motto
man next to concrete bunker
visiting an old war bunker on China Beach

As  a pre-teen I read a book about an American doctor who treated poor people in a foreign country. I developed an interest in  health care through that and other books, and decided to become a doctor. I dreamed of someday traveling overseas and treating people like he and other doctors did.

I didn’t remember anything  about him except his name. I did an Internet search and found his story- Dr. Tom Dooley. Now deceased, he served  a physician in the United States Navy and in the 1950s was assigned to direct the care of refugees- in Vietnam. (After his military service, he founded a humanitarian organization and tragically died young of melanoma.)

When I watched  the war in Vietnam on TV news,  I didn’t realize the doctor I had read about had worked there. I never imagined that I would ever go there. And I never imagined that war would indirectly help me meet my husband, and create a family that brings me joy every day.

When I said, “I’m available” I had no idea how true that would be.

man and lady dressed in dance costumes
And I never expected us to do a ballroom dance routine for an audience

 

 

 

 

Battle for TraBong Vietnam by Raymond Oglesby 

Raymond wrote a gripping account of his experience when his firebase LZ Cindy was  attacked in September 1970

 

We also recommend

A Missing Peace: Vietnam : Finally Healing the Pain 

by Robert Seiple and Gregg Lewis