Twenty-seven years ago when my son was born in San Francisco, I could have never imagined I would someday say the words -- my son is a combat veteran. A Marine Corps combat veteran armed with integrity and fortitude; masking the invisible scars.
I educated myself on post-war issues for combat troops, so I have managed to accept that he will never be the same -- nor should he be. War taught him lessons most of us never learn, and his knowledge of life surpassed mine in the sand and heat of Iraq, six years ago.
Many of us grew up with anti-war feelings. Some of us looked at the Vietnam vets as if they were less than human. They were bearded, scruffy, longhaired bums who didn't work. Some people called them baby killers.
While our new veterans are battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury and for some loss of limbs or sight or hearing, we, the parents and loved ones of these men and women, keep looking for new ways to help them. I realize how abandoned our veterans must have felt after Vietnam and again now, because I, too, feel abandoned in my quest to help.
The preconceived notion of many, of what it should be like when the troops come home, is from a World War II fairy tale. My son received no parades, only a few thanks, a few handshakes and certainly no favors. He says he wanted none of the above. It took four years for someone to hire this intelligent, thoughtful leader of men who managed to keep a cool head while mortars were lobbed at him and IEDs blew up his friends.