I have never been to a Veterans Day Parade until 2019. The North Bay Veterans Day Parade in Petaluma CA is the largest Veterans Day Parade in Northern California. While I am a veteran (1966-69) and have lived in Petaluma (since 1988) and close by since I got out of the service, I have never attended a parade.
My lovely wife, Nancy, gave me a Vietnam hat noting my service in Vietnam. Until I attended this parade I had only worn it once or twice in five years. I truthfully have been embarrassed about my service period being not brave nor a hero nor being engaged in serious direct combat. I wrote about my experiences in prior blog articles.
My wife wanted to attend the parade along with her father and brother-in-law so I decided to join them. We set up chairs along the route and I wore my Vietnam hat. During the parade a number of the marchers came over to me to shake my hand, say thank you or salute me. I got a thank you card and a drawing from two boy scouts (now saved). Some of the veterans in the parade were in wheelchairs and acknowledged me as “brother”.
My brother, Bernie, also served in Vietnam and I believe, died from Agent Orange related heart disease two years ago similar to what AO has given me. I never thought of either of us as heroic. We were common GIs, we both joined the army and went where and when we were told. We did what was asked of us to the best of our ability. By the end of the parade I felt like crying. I will accept that we were not war heroes but we served. I am trying to “come out of the closet” and wear my hat at times.
I am proud of my Dad (US Army 1940-61) who served in both WW II and the Korean War. He never said if he was proud of me for my service but then he was a man of very few words and given that I will assume that he was.