CULLMAN — Well, look at what people are doing for returned veterans now. The wounded warriors. They're working hard to make the wounded veterans feel that they are loved and welcomed home, unlike Vietnam. It was not a very kind, gentle world then. I think we are kinder and gentler. — Barbara Bush
Veterans have been returning to civilian life throughout the nation’s history, encountering various conditions in the economy and mood of the country.
Service members returned from World War I to grateful citizens who realized the world had become a dangerous place as old battle techniques collided head-on with modern killing machines. The results were catastrophic in the loss of human life.
World War II saw Americans return home to cheering crowds and long celebrations after four years of bitter fighting. Known as the “Greatest Generation,” these returning service members were rightfully recognized through the years for their sacrifices in a struggle that cost millions of lives.
Service members who were sent to Korea were part of the nation’s politicians called a police action. Yet more than 50,000 Americans died in what most people would call a war. Americans faced harsh conditions and many trying battles in the Korean war.
Then came Vietnam, a war that drew America involvement nearly 50 years ago. The American role started modestly but soon escalated into a large-scale operation that stretched on for a decade and led to thousands of deaths and political turmoil at home. Many of the veterans from this war came home to a non-welcoming environment where protests and political strife were more noticeable than those who had served.
Efforts to recognize Vietnam veterans are becoming more prominent in the nation, and it’s certainly long past due. The public has come a long way since those years in realizing the sacrifices of war. Returning veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing an American citizenry that cares and reaches out, especially to those who have been wounded.
American service veterans have always been a valuable asset to the nation, obviously because of their service, but also in the knowledge and appreciation of the freedoms we enjoy. Veterans have witnessed turmoil in many parts of the world and because of their sacrifice we continue to enjoy a way of life that is unequaled in any land or nation.