Several months ago, I finally decided to buy a “Vietnam Veteran” hat to proudly wear and let the world know that I served our country during the era of the Vietnam War. I was in the United States Navy from 1969 to 1976. So, why did I wait 37 years to buy a hat? I was concerned…I had been out of work for six years and, if employers knew I was old enough to have served during the Vietnam War, they could determine my age and I would never find a job.
By the grace of God, I got back into teaching this school year and, now, I proudly wear my Vietnam Veteran hat; the response I have received by complete strangers has been absolutely overwhelming!
Every where I have gone while wearing my hat, total strangers have come up to me and offered their hand to me and said, “Thanks for your service!” Wow! What a difference from the way veterans were treated when they came home from the war in the mid-1970s. I must say, I have enjoyed having people shake my hand and thank me for my service; but the ultimate compliment was given to me by a four-year-old!
The other day, my wife and I were having dinner at a buffet restaurant. I was walking past a young family…dad, mom, two toddlers and an infant. The dad stuck out his hand and, like the others, thanked me for my service. After I said, “You’re welcome”, his little boy called out, “Are you a hero?!” I chuckled and replied, “Well, I don’t know about that, but I was there!”
So, now, I wear my Vietnam Veteran with pride and without any reservation. I no longer care who knows how old I am…and, by the way, I love the fact I got a senior discount at that restaurant and that I have Medicare!