Tag: remember

A Belated Homecoming

Memorial

Shorter Version for those with little time:

~ Stories are the shortest route between two people.
~ It’s never too late to thank a Vietnam veteran, ask them to share a story, then thank them again.
~ Listening deeply, attentively, and without judgment to stories from anybody (but especially veterans) can be healing for the teller and educational for the receiver.

Longer Version:

Our daughter loves history and hates injustice, so last spring when she discovered that this year is the 40th anniversary of the last US troop withdrawal from Vietnam, she decided to throw a belated Welcome Home for the Vietnam veterans, including a parade and a program. It took place last Saturday, 9/28/13.

Mustang

The parade boasted fly-overs by Vietnam helicopters and airplanes, along with various other Vietnam War vehicles. There were cars – now vintage cars – that veterans ordered while they were in Vietnam to have waiting on them when they got home.

Some Vietnam veterans (including some of my friends) couldn’t bring themselves to be in or even watch the parade – they just couldn’t – but others did, some at the very last minute. Wives came with husbands and beamed with pride as their veteran stood in his uniform when his branch was recognized. Adult children came and were amazed at some of the things they learned that day. Parents and grandparents who have no ties to the Vietnam War brought their children and grandchildren, giving them an opportunity to learn history from primary sources and encouraging them to talk to the veterans then quizzing them about what they learned.

Stories floated through the air. Oh my goodness did we hear stories . . .

Flags

You may remember POW/MIA bracelets, and how we wore them until our soldier came home. The program started by remembering those who did not make it home, and David, our first speaker, told us about his brother Gary who was Missing In Action for 41 years – forty-one years – then he thanked the US military for not giving up until his brothers remains were found, identified, and given appropriate burial.

You may remember that returning soldiers were spat on, shunned, had tomatoes thrown at them. We heard story after story of how badly they were treated by people who were actually angry with the decision makers but took it out on the veterans. It was not America’s finest hour.

Tom flew missions over Vietnam, and he’s still very angry (as are many other veterans). We heard lots of anger, and I don’t know about you, but I think these fellas have earned the right to be angry.

Billy was responsible for sweeping mine fields, and he closed his story by telling us that while they may joke about Air Force people getting manicures and pedicures, they were and still are brothers. It took a team, he says. Without one branch doing their job, the other branches were in peril and unable to do their jobs.

You may remember the casualty counts reported at the end of the daily 6:00 newscast. Stubby drove a truck and told us bout making deliveries. They’d unload the trucks, then wait while their trucks were loaded for the return trip. Other people loaded the trucks so that Stubby and the other drivers wouldn’t know which ones were carrying supplies and which ones were carrying the KIA’s (Killed in Action).

In between the stories my daughter and her trio, Bombshells United, performed period music specially requested by the veterans. The number one request? The Animals singing We Gotta’ Get Out of This Place. After hearing their stories, I understand more than ever why that song holds such a special place for them.

It was a magical day, a healing day, an educational day. It was a day when grown men cried, and we cried right alongside them. It was a day when we came together to honor these men and women, giving them the homecoming they should’ve received 40 years ago. If you know a Vietnam veteran, how ’bout thanking them for their service for me, will ya’? And ask them to tell you a story cause their stories need to be told . . . and heard.

[ :: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers is at the International Storytelling Festival this weekend, which means she’s a happy, happy girl.

Just Talk Amongst Yourselves

Phone

I know we’re supposed to live in the present, period. Not supposed to look back, not supposed to look ahead. Well, pfffft to that. I love anticipation, love to look forward to something. And I have a nostalgic streak in me about a mile wide. I love to remember when . . .

Today I got to thinking about telephones. Mother worked for the local board of education, Daddy designed and built golf courses and was quite active in politics. I am the oldest of three siblings, and yet despite all that community and civic involvement and popularity, we had one phone. That’s right: one single solitary phone. In the house, I’m telling you. One telephone to be shared by five people. It was a white wall-mounted phone with a curly cord long enough for me to take the receiver into the living room where I could talk in what amounted to the only privacy anybody could find in the confines of that house.

We didn’t have options for phone service – for the set monthly price, you got to make and receive local calls. Long distance calls had to be placed collect (as when letting my parents know that I, their college coed, had arrived safety back on campus, for example. Funny how they never – not once – accepted charges.) or it was charged to your monthly bill. We didn’t have caller id or call waiting or voicemail. Not even answering machines. If somebody called while one of us was on the phone, they just got a busy signal and had to call back.

Busy signals is what I was really thinking about today, if you want to know the truth. That dreaded beep-beep-beep sound that lets you know the person you desperately want or need to talk to is unavailable. And of course all phones were landlines – we didn’t have mobile phones or even phones that were wired into our cars. When we were out traveling and something happened – like, well for the sake of story, let’s say we ran off the road and into a ditch – somebody would happen by and help. In this particular instance – I mean story – somebody happened by on a tractor, pulled out my green Mustang, and promised faithfully to never, ever mention this to my parents.

My first car only had am radio – which was fine by me. I was just tickled to get a car, period. I think it cost $1260, this 1970 green metallic Mustang, but Daddy was friends with the car dealer, so I trust he got at least a bit of a discount.

But back to phones . . . as a sophomore in college, I attended what is now called North Georgia College and State University. Yup, it’s a mouthful. We had a bank of phones on the hall – 3 campus phones and 2 long distance phones on each floor. Folks would call into the central reception desk in the lobby, and whoever was on duty would direct the calls to the floor on which we resided then page us over the loud speaker and direct us to go take the call.

When I met my husband, I didn’t know his last name. (It’s a long story.) (I’ll tell you later.) It was definitely a case of smitten at first sight, but when folks asked his name, call I could say was “Andy” then talk fast so they would hopefully not think it odd that, well, you know. We met on a Saturday night, and apparently I made a good impression because he called me the following Tuesday to ask me to go to a hockey game with him. “Jeanne Hewell – long distance. Jeanne Hewell – long distance.” came the page, which I like to think I would’ve somehow magically heard even were I not sitting – I mean studying – in room 319 Lewis. Because he was calling long distance, the conversation went something like this:

Him: “This is Andy. You wanna’ go to the hockey game Thursday night?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Him: “Okay, good.”

Click.

Must have cost him the better part of a dime.

I did eventually learn his last name (when he introduced himself to my brother that same weekend), and I’d be happy to tell you the point of this post if only I knew what it is.

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