I think we in Norwich have had an annual Vietnam Veterans Day since the start of the 21st Century, thanks in no small part to the Norwich Area Veterans Council and a very dedicated band of brothers and sisters, whose shared service in defense of our nation compels them to help the rest of us remember people and events that have gone before.
This year's observance is this Saturday afternoon, at one, at Chelsea Parade. The day itself, if not our remembrances of it here, is linked to the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975.
I grew up in era where history was reduced to the memorization of dates and events to be parroted back on test days, but even in today's world of alt-facts and fake news, I'm confident forty-two years down memory lane that we, as a country, have never really made our peace with that war, the way we fought it and the way it ended and most especially with how we treated those lucky enough to come home from it.
And again this year to me proof again that the present is often a future we ignored from our past, we have large numbers of young and not-so-young men and women, deployed across the globe, many in southwest Asia, serving our national strategic interests and furthering our foreign policy objectives while I sit in front of my big screen and bitch about the two hundred channels of cable I get.
Some have suggested Vietnam demonstrated the danger of trying to conduct a guns AND butter war, that is, we send people off to fight while back on the home front, very little changes. If that's the theory, then I guess it's true, since while we had sappers trying to clear mines from rice paddies in monsoon season we also had half a million gather in the mud of Yasgur's Farm. And when all the toking and joking was over, the ages of everybody were practically identical, though I think the guys humping it through weeds were younger, but also older.
But the Vietnam War as all wars are was less geopolitics and more personal loss and grief across a generation. I was still finding buildings and classrooms as a wide-eyed freshman at Rutgers when I lost forever a Manhattan prep school classmate, Roy O., in Vietnam.
I was grateful so many years later as part of the events surrounding the Norwich Sesquicentennial when the American VeteransTraveling Tribute to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial stopped at Howard T. Brown Park, giving me a moment to say thank you and farewell to my friend.
From what I know from long-time residents of Norwich, the city lost twelve young men in the Vietnamese War. When I read accounts of that war and its aftermath, I'm angry, bitter and maybe a little guilty at how so many of those who survived were treated, Those fortunate enough to come home returned to us often wounded in places that will never, ever heal and were left to their own devices while the rest of us raced to forget what we never knew enough about in the first place.
In years previous on Saturdays passed, we've had skies so deep and blue you could get got lost looking into them with just enough of a breeze that the large flag at the war memorial on Chelsea Parade was fully unfurled (you could hear a light snapping of the cloth). I hope the weather will cooperate because a nice day attracts more participants, but the weather will not matter to those who will be there, rain or shine, so you should dress accordingly. And on behalf of those Norwich sons, and the other fifty-eight thousand plus casualties, thank you.
I will hope for sunshine because a sunny day provides me the perfect reason to wear my big, very dark sunglasses since, by the time the ceremonies conclude, like many I'm struggling to keep from crying. I have spent too much of my life being too cool to care and cry because I fear if I do, I may never stop.
Praise we great men and women I know but the sacrifices made by those with whom we live and love make me wonder if we praise and remember the right people. Welcome Home.