“No one said welcome home to me other than my family,” said Richard Holmes, 67, of Derry, who was an Army medic from 1969 to 1970. “We were ignored and forgotten.”
For others, being ignored was the least of it.
“People were calling us names,” said Al Raymond, 65, of Salem. “They were jeering us and it really hurt us. It got to the point where we didn’t want people to know we were Vietnam veterans.”
But in the past several years, some local veterans said, they have started to notice a change.
“When I go into Home Depot, I present my veteran identification,” said John DiBona, 71, of Hampstead, who served as a sergeant in the Air Force for 20 years. “Every time, the cashier thanks me for my service.”
Reynolds said he finally felt accepted about 20 years ago, when he finally was invited to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.
Many Vietnam veterans across the country reported feeling unwelcome at their local VFW posts.
“For the longest time, they refused to recognize us,” he said. “Then, one day, a commander at the VFW knocked on my door and said you’re welcome now.”
Local veterans said they believe there are several reasons for the recent change in attitude.
“The last two wars we have had changed people’s perception of us,” DiBona said. “People were doing the same things we were doing in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
But Holmes said the change is just a function of time.
“The world goes on,” he said. “People became more patriotic than they were in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.”
Raymond said today’s soldiers have unknowingly had an impact on the legacy of soldiers of year’s past.
“(Today’s soldiers) do it voluntarily now,” he said. “The amount of tours our people are doing are just awesome. In return, people are giving them the support they deserve, which we didn’t get at the time. As a result, I think people start to remember us as well.”