FORT WORTH (CBSDFW) U.S. Navy CDR (Ret.) Jack Bailey did a lot while serving in both the Army and the Navy, but he would not want to repeat the reception at the airport one man gave him when he returned from Vietnam.
“He accused me of being a baby burner and then he hosed me with a bottle of ketchup,” Bailey recalled somberly.
“We were NOT feeling like we were the people who had done the job and been over there doing what we were told to do and successfully had done it. It was a very frustrating situation.”
Today, Vietnam veterans are among the people at NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base planning events to honor the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War at JRB. There will be displays of current and Vietnam-era aircraft, cars and artillery. But many Vietnam Veterans have shied away from recognition, therapy and comradarie with other vets. Their emotional wounds never healed.
“Some of the people still haven’t come home,” said Richard Gaurkee, a Vietnam vet and director of the Vietnam War Museum in Mineral Wells. “They’re here in the states. They’re walking around. But they’re still not home.”
Event planners are trying to get word out to veterans that among the pomp and circumstance planned for the event at JRB there will also be tables offering support services, sympathetic ears and a warm thank you — fifty years later.
“It will take a few hours of conversations or just listening and not saying anything after the tributes are complete, after the tributes are done, just to welcome home everybody quietly and to greet them, which we should have done in the first place,” said Base Commander Capt. Gil Miller, USN.
“There’s no way that I would want my kids or anybody else’s kids to experience what we had to go through when we came back,” Bailey said choking back tears. “And I think this is a tremendous opportunity to open the doors and open arms and welcome our guys. Guys that 50 years ago didn’t get this reception. And obviously they deserved it. And they still do. It’s long overdo but it’s still deserved.”
The gates at JRB will be open to the public the morning of May 9th for the observance.
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)