Andrea Howe

Andrea Howe

I shake my head when I think about it, but I actually said this to my husband on our first date, when he mentioned he was a Vietnam War veteran:

“You’re not one of those guys who uses that as an excuse to act like an idiot, are you?”

He grinned, and said, “Well, I don’t think so.”

Five years later, he married me, so I know he didn’t hold it against me.

But really.

What a dumb thing to say to that decorated Marine combat veteran!

God must have been at work to keep that comment from killing our courtship.

I could joke now, after gleaning snippets here and there and tracking his service record, that he would be entirely entitled to use his service as an excuse to be an idiot.

Instead, I marvel and give God a lot of credit for giving me a husband who is more well-adjusted to life than he should have to be.

Just a few weeks ago, when my father-in-law passed away, we had the occasion to go through a box that contained letters my husband had written from Vietnam. What a treasure. My husband read part of a letter and laughed, “I sound like a kid!”

“You were!” I told him.

A number of years ago, I did a series of interviews with area Vietnam veterans to accompany excerpts from author Bob Greene’s book “Homecoming,” a compilation of letters from Vietnam War vets about the reception they received when they came home from the war.

I interviewed a hair salon owner who was a helicopter pilot, a coal miner who was in the Army and a police officer who was a Marine. Placing those local people alongside the stories of the men in Greene’s book helped me see how little we knew and get just a glimpse just what they gave up when they served Uncle Sam.

There were no parades when they came home, and in some areas of this country, they didn’t get much respect, much less thanks, for their service.

March 29 is, by presidential proclamation,Vietnam Veterans Day. On that day in 1973, the last combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam.

According to the Department of Defense, The Vietnam War Commemoration extends to Veterans Day 2025, and more than 5,300 activities have been planned to date.

If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a full listing of events, as well as an interactive historical timeline of the Vietnam War, fact sheets, maps and more, at the Vietnam War Commemoration website:

Meanwhile, I testify to this fact: It’s never too late to thank a vet for serving our country — any day of the week.

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