The Vietnam War has always been a sensitive topic in my family. My father was called Gramps by the young men who served with him. He was not the normal soldier. He was in his 30s. He had five children.
I was a toddler during those years. I grew up hearing stories of how much I missed my father while he was gone. Prior to his going to war, I would wait patiently at the front door for him to come home. No matter how hard they tried, my family couldn’t break me of that habit while he was gone. My mother and my grandfather would try to coax me away from the door, but I wouldn’t budge. Only after I fell asleep could they move me to my bed. When they got up in the morning, they would fi nd me sleeping in front of the door.
Patiently, I waited.
The father who left my family wasn’t exactly the same one who came home. He was wounded in an explosion, and spent quite a bit of time in the hospital when he returned home. That father cried out in his sleep. It wasn’t wise to surprise him. His patience wasn’t what it had been.
He had no love for hippies or protesters and even today, the name Jane Fonda is an anathema in his home. He recalls the protesters, the anger, the lack of a welcome home. He, like his fellow service members, had no heroes welcome. There were no ticker tape parades. No yellow ribbons. Flags did not fly to symbolize a service member. It was more a mark of shame than anything else.
Knowing this, you now know that the Vietnam War shaped a part of my life. The idea of Fayetteville finally holding a welcome home for Vietnam veterans holds a special place in my heart. The controversy raging around it does not.
To me, the old saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions seems apt in this situation. I believe Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne and his volunteer group have nothing but good intentions. I also believe that their intentions are not shared by Chuck Fager or those in his organization. (Note: I support their right to believe what they want, but I don’t have to agree with it. Bottom line, up front, I don’t agree with them.)
I believe that veteran’s groups and other volunteers should step up to the leadership position for the welcome home event — not because Mayor Chavonne’s heart is not in the right place, but rather that circumstances and people — the Quaker House and members of the media who have sensationalized the reporting around the controversy — have compromised Chavonne to the point that he is becoming a distraction.
That being said, I hope that all those who have it in their hearts to honor the service of our Vietnam veterans step forward and support this endeavor. I implore the veterans and others in the community not to let the controversy ruin the event. Participate. Mend wounds. Ignore sensationalism. Become a part of the solution.
To do less is just another slap in the face of the heroes the event is designed to honor.