Tuesday, September 2, 2008

All This Vietnam Veteran Wanted Was a Welcome Home

Today two movers came to my house to move furniture to my younger daughter’s apartment. One man noticed my husband’s military history books.

“I was in the army for 10 years,” he said. “Four tours in Vietnam.”

I told him that I had just written a novel about that time and I asked if he’d like a copy. He said yes and asked if I’d sign it.

And he wanted the book signed to 1LT (first lieutenant) and his full name. And then he asked if I’d add that this was from the wife of 1LT Mitch Miller (my husband) and the words “Welcome Home.”

“I didn’t get a ‘welcome home,’” he said. “I got called a babykiller by a Hare Krishna. I pulled off his hair tail and got thrown in jail only three hours after I arrived back in the U.S. Only time I was ever in jail.”

After the man moved another piece of furniture, he told me he became a sheriff in LA County after that. But he decided to leave the sheriff’s department after the following incident:

He had his gun out as he passed down the side of a house looking for someone. An eight-year-old boy pointed a .357 Magnum at him. “And the only reason I didn’t shoot and kill that little boy was because I’d been in Vietnam. I’d learned to use my peripheral vision. And I saw that the gun’s bullet chamber wasn’t in alignment.

“That’s why I got out. When I realized I could have killed that boy who didn’t know any better. Just doing what his parents had taught him.”

As the mover departed he said, “Tell you husband ‘welcome home’ from one vet to another.”

Fighting back the tears, I turned to my daughter and said, “Those feelings never die. It’s been so many years and yet all he wanted was someone to say ‘welcome home.’”

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Trish | eMailOurMilitary said...

Heartbreaking. Reading that made me feel a tremendous amount of sadness. A simple thank you from one person to another could have made all the difference. I sure hope that your words on the inside of your book helped begin the healing process for him.

If you still have his contact info, let me know. I'd happily send him a letter of thanks.

nancymkqueen said...

What a touching story as only you can retell. I really enjoyed finishing your book last week. It was an accurate description of military life. It doesn't matter what background,political party, education, religion or race. It's like a family. I am so greatful for my military friends and most importantly those who served for our country. Welcome home to all vets!

Anna said...

Thanks for this post, Phyllis. It broke my heart, just like it broke my heart every time my father told me that he didn't get a welcome back (other than taunts of babykiller and dog feces thrown at him).

So to any vets that are reading, WELCOME HOME!

--Diary of an Eccentric