This is a post from November 11, 2009 - that I wanted to share with you again.
in honor of you all but especially rick my friend
Today it is hard to imagine soldiers coming back from a war and not being greeted by cheering family, friends, streets lined with neighbors, American flags waving and motorcycles escorting them with lights aflashing and horns ahonking.
That is what I thought always happened when soldiers returned home...
until I met Rick.
He was a member of a divorce recovery workshop that I attended thru a local church some five years ago. A safe place where we could share stories of the downfalls of our marriages, get support and hopefully…heal.
He was the oldest person at my table, once very handsome with deep blue eyes, but surgeries to his lower jaw had left his face misshapened and difficult to look at.
Rick and I became friends and during that friendship he shared stories of his life...
He graduated high school in 1967 and was drafted into the Marines the very next year. At that tender age he went and fought in Vietnam until 1970.
He told just slivers of the horror, helplessness-at-times and fear of the war, along with the experience of being deep in the jungles and having our government spray the defoliate Agent Orange all over them, how it felt covering his skin, it's distinct smell and the taste…..he never forgot.
But as cruel as the war was, it did not prepare him for the cruelty that he would have to endure upon coming home.
No fanfare, no welcoming home parades, no parties, no nothing. Even worse many of the young people of that era despised the war and anyone/thing having to do with it.
So he came home to scorn and silence.
His parents, thinking that he would never come back alive, sold his treasured Mustang, bought after saving every cent he ever earned from a job at the local hardware store.
They even gave away his Schwinn bike.
He was told not to talk about the war….to just “get on with life” and so he did.
He met a woman at the local donut shop, fell in love, got married, fathered four children, and worked very hard to support them.
Then he got sick.
Diagnosed with throat cancer directly related to the Agent Orange that had covered him in the jungles of Vietnam and, as in war, he fought like hell and physically survived surgery after surgery.
Shortly thereafter his wife asked for a divorce after falling in love with another man.
He was financially and emotionally devastated.
Which is what led him to divorce recovery and into my life.
When the workshop ended Rick left Illinois and moved to a small town in Wisconsin to start anew, but within a year of moving there....he died in his sleep.
He was 56...
So to Rick, who so valiantly fought in the Vietnam War and then came home and fought for the rest of his life with deeply etched, horrific memories, disrespect from some, that as a representative of their freedom, he fought so hard for, against Agent Orange-caused-cancer and a devastating end to a marriage he thought would last a lifetime...
from deep in my soul and with much, much fanfare...
I stand in a thankful salute to all the servicemen and women like you!!
for all you did/do