Tonight I Came Home
Veterans Day eve, 2003
For twenty nine years from 1974, I stayed aside and did not
deeply buried shame, dishonor and disgust.
Like so many brothers and sisters who served during Vietnam,
I did not
tell anyone I served during that time.
I did not tell much of the shame and resentment heaped upon me
my first week stateside from the theater of war. Of the spit on my
face and "baby killer" burned into my soul.
I spoke not of the
beatings to which I raised no fist. I spoke not of the businesses that
threw me out into the street.
like so many veterans, I threw off my uniform, I packed the
increasing shame of my nation onto my back and carried it with
everyday of my life.
I stayed aside and did not discuss. I stayed aside and did not
respond. I gave them back
the honor they could not display. The honor
I had been taught, the honor I earned, the respect for those I served
protect. I gave to them the respect they could not give to me and I
hoped that therein lay their path to be healed. I carried
Tonight, for the first time in twenty nine years, I stayed not aside,
I went to a concert to honor
those who came back and those who did not.
The last that was played was a medley of national hymns with the themes
each service worked in. It was requested that when each veteran
heard the theme of his service he rise and stand tall.
last that played was the Air Force Theme, and for the first time in
twenty nine years I stood tall and square along with
many who also did
The applause was like a roar, there were cheers, and the calls were of
thanks, and welcome
home - we're glad you are here. Had my knees not
been locked I'm sure I would have fallen. I know that I shook, it
For the first time in twenty nine years, I heard applause and cheers
for the time I did give. For the
first time, in twenty nine years...
As I and my friend, a veteran in a wheel chair, left through the halls,
were musicians and chorale from the stage lining the way. They
thanked us for our service and stated they were so sorry
disgraces of yesteryear. They shook our hands and welcomed us home,
thanking us for the time we served. They
said they were sorry for the
disgraces of yesteryear. They said they were sorry... to me.
One stepped up, grabbing
my hand and thanked me for carrying the shame
and allowing them to heal. I must have been a sight with my shock
bold and the tears from my eyes flowing wild. Not a word could
I form but I'm sure my eyes spoke...
I came home, welcomed by my nation. Tonight, I laid down
a pack full of their shame. Tonight, I came home and laid down
saber at the feet of my nation. Tonight, I came home from the war.
The power of those few little words, welcome
home, thank you, and we're
sorry, six of the most powerful words on earth erased nearly three
decades of remorse and
shame. Erased three decades of anger and blame.
Erased a lifetime spent at war.
The power of six little words. Thank
you, welcome home, we're sorry.
That tonight, they brought me home from war.
What will I do now that I'm no
longer at war? What will I do with the
emptiness where the shame was locked deeply below? What will I do now
load is gone and my feet no longer trudge the ground? What
will I do with this foolish grin that crosses my face, now that
For twenty nine years I've been a stranger in a strange land, twenty
something and still at war. Now,
in the frame of one night, I am an
old man with a soul that soars.
The power of six little words that tonight,
brought me home from war.
Thank you, welcome home, we're sorry...
Written from the heart by Gary Kendall, a Vietnam veteran.
This page is dedicated to all veterans that remain as Gary was .....".behind the wall within"....in hopes they too
will at last COME HOME. God Bless you Gary and thank you for allowing me and VWF this honor and privilege
to help celebrate your homecoming!