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Thank You Vietnam Vets
click on image to enlarge

This is a story about a Viet Nam vet and Ann Margaret as told by the vet's wife:

"Richard, (my husband), never really talked a lot about his time in Viet Nam other than he had been shot by a sniper. However, he had a rather grainy, 8 x 10 black and white photo he had taken at a USO show of Ann Margaret with Bob Hope in the background that was one of his treasures.

A few years ago, Ann Margaret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. Richard wanted to see if he could get her to sign the treasured photo so he arrived at the bookstore at 12 o'clock for the 7:30 signing.

When I got there after work, the line went all the way around the bookstore, circled the parking lot and disappeared behind a parking garage.  Before her appearance, bookstore employees announced that she would sign only her book and no memorabilia would be permitted.

Richard was disappointed, but wanted to show her the photo and let her know how much those shows meant to lonely GI's so far from home.  Ann Margaret came out looking as beautiful as ever and, as second in line, it was soon Richard's turn.

He presented the book for her signature and then took out the photo.  When he did, there were many shouts from the employees that she would not sign
it. Richard said, "I understand.  I just wanted her to see it."

She took one look at the photo, tears welled up in her eyes and she said, "This is one of my gentlemen from Viet Nam and I most certainly will sign his photo.  I know what these men did for their country and I always have time for 'my gentlemen.'"

With that, she pulled Richard across the table and planted a big kiss on him.  She then made quite a to-do about the bravery of the young men she met
over the years, how much she admired them, and how much she appreciated them.  There weren't too many dry eyes among those close enough to hear. 
She then posed for pictures and acted as if he was the only one there.

Later at dinner, Richard was very quiet.  When I asked if he'd like to talk about it, my big strong husband broke down in tears."That's the first time
anyone ever thanked me for my time in the Army," he said.

That night was a turning point for him.  He walked a little straighter and, for the first time in years, was proud to have been a Vet.  I'll never forget Ann Margaret for her graciousness and how much that small act of kindness meant to my husband.

I now make it a point to say "Thank you" to every person I come across who served in our Armed Forces.  Freedom does not come cheap and I am grateful for all those who have served their country.

click here to see photo of Ann Margaret
(sorry I couldn't post it, odd large format that I couldn't fix)

Sent by Patrick O'Hannigan, thank you Patrick!

I just don't know how else to express that they are heroes. And for the first time in my life I wish I was a political socialite that could organize a campaign for a Vietnam Vet Appreciation Day. Wouldn't that be a great day? Would somebody political please run with that?

I applaud Richard's wife as well. It takes a strong secure woman to understand and write that. ~jen

As our nation cheers and applauds the homecoming of our troops today, I'd like to say out loud what I know is felt by many Americans...

We are so very sorry, Vietnam Vets.

Although today's troops deserve our grateful support, it's obvious that America is being especially careful not to repeat our shameful past of blaming our troops, to support them and welcome them home, regardless of what we feel about politics.

I believe that we often add an extra spoonful of gratitude because of our guilt over our treatment of the Vietnam vets and their homecoming. And I have to wonder, as the Vietnam vets watch the parades over today's heroes, do they recognize that part of it is meant for them? Sadly, I don't think so.

I remember the days of the Vietnam war, and the pictures I saw of the spitting on our soldiers at their homecoming, blood throwing, the protests, anger and hostility. I was just a little kid, I didn't know any vets, but I remember believing the crowd, and for that, with all my heart, dear Vietnam vets, I apologize.

Your sacrifices are so very appreciated, the wounds you continue to carry physically and in your hearts and your minds, are not forgotten. Every time I realize I am talking with a Vietnam vet, I have such a desire to hug you with sincere gratitude, but I never do, because I am certain it would be misunderstood.

Vietnam vets don't like to talk about the war, or dwell upon it. It's rare that the identity is even disclosed, and once it is, that haunted look of steel comes over a Vietnam vet's face as memories flood their thoughts, and I know they want to drop the subject immediately.

So I stand there, searching for words to change the subject, wishing I could express my gratitude but not knowing how.

I believe much of America feels the same way. And when our troops come home from Iraq or Afghanistan or the Gulf, we clap a little louder, we cheer a little longer, and we throw larger parties.

But Vietnam Vets, please know that at the same time, so many of us are cheering you too. We gasp as the media reports our troops are worried they will be treated as you were. We are stabbed with guilt at the thought...and like most spoiled children, many of us quickly dismiss it, we don't like to admit guilt. So we exuberantly express it where we can, today, with our troops coming home, and hope that makes up for it. And it doesn't.

But make no mistake, we cheer for you too. And we grieve our past mistakes.

So as you watch the troops of today flooded with praise and glorious homecomings, and you feel a pang of hurt and anger as you remember your fallen friends, the horrors of war you went through, the sacrifices you made for us, to come home and be torn apart by us...all I can say is, please forgive us. I, for one, was an idiot. We all were. And we wish so much that we could find a way to express our gratitude. We can't undo the past, we can only ask for your forgiveness, I pray that you can.

I have looked for an organization to donate to, in expression of gratitude.  The best I could find was Closer Walk Ministries, but how can they or any organization even attempt to undo the damage we have done, reach all Vietnam Vets and express our gratitude? America, I think we missed our chance.

You are heroes in my eyes. And when you hear the cheering of our troops today, please please know that many of us have you on our hearts, minds and prayers as well. God bless you. ~jen

See Response by a Vet

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