Sept. 12, 2012 —
The Labor Day weekend brought the American Veterans Traveling Tribute, including a replica of the Vietnam Memorial, to Carter County.
Attendance was heavy and public reaction to the displays, military and civilian, was overwhelmingly positive.
Scores of visitors were reduced to tears as they honored the fallen and those still serving.
Family members and former comrades came to touch the engraved names of the lost and to share heartfelt memories of those who didn’t return from that conflict in Southeast Asia which ended 40 years ago and claimed more than 58,000 American lives.
The displays were respectfully staged on the beautiful campus of Kentucky Christian University.
Although the focus was on Vietnam, the AVTT also welcomed veterans of other wars such as World War II and more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
America today has vets as old as their 90’s and some as young as 18. They share the bond of having been sent into harm’s way in service to their country.
Veterans of all ages should be bound together even more by this great quote from Shakespeare’s King Henry V:
“For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”
With that background, we were somewhat surprised to read last week’s exchange of angry letters to the editor of our sister newspaper, the Daily Independent of Ashland.
In those letters, two local residents brought entirely different perspectives to the AVTT experience.
The first letter writer was critical of the presence of the motorcycles escorting the AVTT displays from Ashland to Grayson.
He apparently didn’t understand that the Kentucky Patriot Guard is a mix of veterans and civilians who – at their own expense and on their own time – provide honor guards or escorts for military funerals and ceremonies.
He also was negative about the miniature wall itself, describing it as an insult to deceased vets. He criticized the clothes worn by the flag-bearing motorcyclists.
That letter was answered by a Vietnam vet who rides in the Patriot Guard and who was involved in the AVTT escort.
His closing paragraph reminds all of us of why we fight for this nation.
“As for the long hair, vests and beards, one of the reasons I went to Vietnam is so I could wear my hair and clothes the way I wanted, go to the church of my choice and vote the way I want. That’s called freedom and if that offends you, I’m sorry.”