Veterans Day 2003
by Barry W. Fox
Excuse me, old school mistake, I should be saying hello brothers and sisters now. My prayer and hope is that all of you at this moment are enjoying good health and all the goodness that our lifestyle in this wonderful country affords.
I just wanted to share with you an extraordinary event that happened at the conclusion of the first Gulf War in the early nineties.
I served with the 101st in Vietnam in the mid sixties and came back with that kind of well I’m home, does anyone really care that I was gone and what I’ve done, kind of feeling that was pervasive back in that era. Of course your immediate family and friends were happy but you kind of felt awkward even trying to talk about anything related to your time away.
Damn it, I know that we sound like spoiled brats, but no parades, no job well done, no bunting, no anything, just kind of an empty feeling as if you were now somehow on the outside looking in. Don’t get me wrong I did not do anything extraordinary over Vietnam, just served and did my job, should have, maybe could have done more, but I did get home in one piece, and was personally proud of my service and who I did it with.
Fast forward to the first Gulf War and following the exploits of the “famed 101st” as they went further, faster, than anyone ever had up till that time ending up in the Baghdad Suburbs, perched to move forward and do what had to be done. I was really proud of “My” guys and their accomplishments.
The war was over in a relative blink of an eye, thank God for that, and the troops were returning home. Only this time they were going to have a real welcome home troops parade with bunting, flags, music, the President and everything that I had ever would have wanted for the Vietnam and of course the Korean Vets, but, this was their time, their show, and they were getting what they deserved, again, Thank God for that.
I was told by the news broadcasts that this parade was going to be the real thing, all day long with the whole country invited. Pittsburgh is only 4 1/2 hours from DC, so I woke up my kids early in the morning and made the drive down there. I was more excited than anyone should have a right to be, for my country, my military, my unit, and the fact that they were going to be rightfully honored just like in WW I or WW II, the nation was going to throw a party and I wanted to at least watch it.
Remember in the service days, if you were in the Airborne and had a twenty-eight inch waist you were considered fat, well as many of my friends of that era I had somehow become a little older, a little fatter, and like many of my contemporaries had now grown some facial hair, I guess to somehow make up for the losses on top of the head. I wanted to communicate the fact that I too had served and was a vet, especially with the 101st. The best way was to wear my black ball cap with the distinctive screaming eagle on the front of it.
I took my boys and we found a spot right after the grandstand areas, but before the parade would turn toward the Lincoln Memorial. I was surprised to find that the first troops leading the parade were from the 101st, I went out of my mind with joy, I kept clapping and yelling, jumping up and down with pure joy to see these stract troops returning home.
Then it happened, line by line, I guess they spotted the hat with the Eagle, but they began to salute while marching as if I was some kind of Officer or dignitary, I had tears streaming down my face as I returned the salutes and will forever be grateful to my brothers in arms for affording me that moment in time that will be like no other until I look upon the face of God.
I write this to let you fellow troops know that there are people that care about you and your service, many of those fine young people are now on the outside and amongst us. Never forget their service and commitment not only to their country but to each other, each and every one of us.
May God watch over our brave young men and women who are now in harms way, I would give each and every one of them a welcome home if possible.