By Michael Isam
St. Augustine, FL â€” Back in the day the people that stood out were the â€œRainbows.â€ The name given to those freshly arrived to boot camp. To those yet to receive that full set of green everything; green from the skin out. To paraphrase the verse by Billy Joel: â€œWhen we wore a younger ones clothes.â€
On Friday, Nov. 6,one small band of â€œRainbowsâ€ again stood out amongst a sea of camouflage fatigues of todayâ€™s Army and Air Force National Guard issue.
â€œIt is interesting to come full circle and assume the title again,â€ said Tom Crawford. â€œBut I have been called worse, much worse.â€
Crawford refers to a time when those returning from Vietnam were called anything but human.
â€œBut we bucked up and swallowed it, that was the military way,â€ he said. â€œOne would think that after 50 years, the emotions would have passed.Well, think again.â€
On Nov. 6 all that changed for a platoon of Vietnam veterans with a special â€œWelcome Homeâ€ retreat ceremony. Members of the Florida National Guard led by Adjutant General Emmett R. Titshaw, Jr. offered a â€œWelcome Homeâ€ filled with dignity and respect.
The veterans returned that dignity and respect, in formation, and in unison like the well-oiled of lo, so many years ago.
â€œJust like your original serial number,â€ said Joe McDermot. â€œMilitary ceremonial movements will stay with one forever.â€
â€œWe can not make up for the past,â€ said one current guard member â€œbut we can take the work you have passed to us and insure that the disrespect you endured never happens to another of our family.â€
After the short ceremony outside, all were invited to the Officerâ€™s Club for a small intimate ceremony â€œGI to GIâ€.
The high point of the ceremony was the presentation to Robert Dinkins, Commander of Vietnam Veterans Chapter 1084, of the flag which had just flown over the ceremony at Patriot Field. â€œFrom a grateful nation,â€ said General Titshaw as he solemnly and carefully passed the consecrated flag to Dinkins.
Dinkins clutched the flag to his chest and raising it over his head, he haltingly spoke emotion filled words dedicating it to â€œAll my brothers and sisters of the Vietnam War; those who came home and to those still missing.â€
Afterwards, all retired to the Elks Club for food, libation, and the type of comradeship that can only be shared by veterans.
Michael IsamÂ is the current Commander of DAV Chapter 6 and a Vietnam Veteran, 1969 to 1970.