To the editor:
Gloucester’s 2012 Veterans Day Ceremony is being held Sunday at Gloucester High School, commencing at 9 a.m. and sponsored by the United Veterans Council of Gloucester and the Office of Veterans’ Services for the City of Gloucester.
This Veterans Day is extremely significant for those of us who fought in Vietnam, for it is the 50th anniversary of the commencement of the Vietnam War — a bittersweet event but an important anniversary.
Additionally, Nov. 13, 2012, marks the 30th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. For one who has stood in the shadow of that memorial and gazed up at the names of my fallen friends, many memories come flooding back as the pain and sorrow often comes rushing to the surface. But it is also a stark reminder to me of those who came back and the consequences of same.
For many of us, coming back from Vietnam meant hiding in plain sight. Vietnam veterans have for many years labored in obscurity, forgotten and shunned by society despite the sacrifices that were made. We felt shamed and disgraced of our actions in that controversial war and the response from the “ungrateful” nation supported that belief.
Many in society at the time mistook the warriors for the war, and we paid the price for this mistake and continue to do so. We became the “Lost Generation.” And for 11 young men from this city, they paid the ultimate sacrifice in a country that many have now forgotten.
Thankfully, the nation appears to have changed. It is now able to separate the warriors from the war. The veterans from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned home to a supportive and welcoming environment. The government and its citizens are now making attempts to assist and help our returning veterans through a variety of programs and by just saying “thank you!”
Perhaps our sacrifices as Vietnam Veterans weren’t in vain. But it is time for the Vietnam Veterans to be acknowledged and recognized.
This Veterans Day ceremony is for you, the Vietnam veterans. I invite each and every veteran, but especially my fellow Vietnam veterans, to come out from the shadows and into the light. Come to the Gloucester High School on Sunday, and stand as one with your fellow veterans! This is your time to be recognized and thanked — albeit 50 years too late.
I call upon all the citizens of Gloucester, especially the leaders of our great city, both in politics and in business, to spend a few brief hours on Sunday welcoming home those who have been here but not been here for the past 50 years. It is sorely needed.
I recently sent a letter to all my fellow members of the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 74, especially the Vietnam Veterans, inviting them to attend this special event. One response clearly encapsuled the reason for this ceremony; he wrote:
“Not many things have encouraged me to step out and say yes, I’m a Vietnam veteran. Your letter has given me the feeling that’s OK. I have spent a lot of time and effort in making some sense of why we were there, and understanding why we did what we did. Those answers will never come.”
I call upon the citizens of Gloucester to prove that he is not wrong — that it’s OK to say that you were a Vietnam veteran without the feelings of shame or remorse.
Come to the Gloucester High School on Sunday at 9 a.m. Come to give closure to those who need it.
MARK L. NESTOR
Middle Street, Gloucester
Vietnam, Class of ‘70