Branson celebrates “Veterans Week” out of respect for those who served our country. For several years, Jim and I traveled to Branson for this annual event. Patriotic songs are performed by talented people dressed in glittering red, white, and blue costumes.
Our first stop in Branson was always the 76 Music Hall where we registered Jim for his ARMY, 169th Engineers, Vietnam nametag. Until we began to celebrate Veterans Week in Branson, Jim had not experienced the pride associated with fighting for his country. Jim and I both had tears in our eyes when a man saw Jim’s nametag and shook his hand. “I just want to say thank you, and welcome home.” Vietnam veterans returned home one at a time on commercial airlines—no parades, no thank you, no appreciation.
Vietnam irrevocably changed Jim. He felt more stigmatized than honored for most of the years following his tour of duty. Jim suffered from post traumatic syndrome before anyone knew what it was. He became withdrawn, suicidal, paranoid, and sank into a dark depression. Eventually, he received psychiatric treatment and with medication improved. Yet, throughout the remainder of his life, Vietnam was a burden on his soul.
At a Country Tonite show, one of the performers sang, “All Gave Some, and Some Gave All.” Most people probably think of the soldiers who died on the battlefield as the ones who “gave all.” Jim stood beside me in the darkened theatre, his solemn face changing colors because of the flashing stage lights. As I held his hand, my arm brushing against the denim of his Levi jacket, I knew in my heart that Jim was one who gave all.
Today, my sister-in-law and I visited the Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville to place red, white, and blue flowers in front of Jim’s niche in the columbarium. The cemetery, peaceful and quiet, beneath a cloudless blue sky, is in stark contrast to sweaty soldiers carrying M-16s through a Southeast Asian jungle.
How many will pause on November 11 to honor our veterans? Or has Veterans Day simply become another excuse for retail stores to have a sale? I know that in Branson, at least, veterans will be thanked, honored, and welcomed home with a parade that begins at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month.
As long as our country sends troops throughout the world to fight in wars, it is our obligation to provide support to veterans for as long as they need it. Outer wounds are visible, but scars on the heart may be the deepest. All gave some and some gave all to keep the stars and strips flying high and proud over this country.