On March 30, 1973, I was standing on the flight line at Travis Air Force Base to greet the last 55 soldiers returning from Vietnam. They were advised to change into civilian clothes on their flight home because of fears they would be accosted by protesters after they landed.
For me, it was a mixed feeling, having served during many wars in the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s and the ‘70s. In my 11-year assignment to Travis, this old Kentucky boy saw things that would break your heart. When our combat troops returned to Oakland and San Francisco, Calif., on ships, and would be met by thousands of war protesters.
I’m proud to have had a hand in helping our veterans and American soldiers to meet the ships to escort our troops to the buses awaiting them.
Veterans today are encouraged by the changes they see. The U.S. has a volunteer military these days, not a draft, and our troops coming home aren’t derided for their service, and they’re insisting that the government take care of our soldiers suffering from injuries when they return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
I’m proud to have served my country for 27 years.
(Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.)