After it happened, I thought it would fade. But Memorial Day came, along with its images, and the feeling returned. To explain:

A local American Legion post (never mind which one, not the one in my town) advertised for Vietnam vets to show up on a winter’s Sunday afternoon and have a bite to eat. Finding it difficult, since I moved to Maine, to get acquainted with other Vietnam ex-GIs, I went.

But for 30 minutes, I sat in back of the Legion hall — alone. No one noticed, except for a large woman with a plate of food who glared at me as if I were an interloper. Then she sat down and showed me her back, and ate. Meanwhile, the Legionnaires chatted away, exchanged salutes, and did some vaguely military stuff.

Yes, I could have done the approaching, but I always thought guests were supposed to be treated like guests. So I left through the door where someone should have been hovering to greet the folks that the Legion invited.

If you reach out to vets, take the next step. Make them feel welcome. If you see an unfamiliar face in your hall, show that the invitation was genuine. It’s that simple.

Any Vietnam vets out there who’d like to get together for beer or coffee? We have stories to tell. No need to salute and wear those Legion hats. Just talk.

Dave Griffiths, Mechanic Falls


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