— By BRIAN SMITH
Monday is Veteran’s Day, a day when Americans are encouraged to remember the 22 million veterans who have served the country in peacetime and war.
After serving their country and defending the freedoms Americans are accustomed to, it’s heartbreaking to hear what some veterans have come home to after serving in wartime. Many having been spit at, told not to wear their uniforms home for fear of retribution and other malfeasance.
Barry Goodson, who served in Vietnam, spoke of what he went through, as did other veterans before Saturday’s Veteran’s Day Ceremony before the annual parade at the Ninth Grade Center. He said respect for veterans has picked up since 9/11, but still leaves a lot to be desired.
“During 9/11, veterans and the country united toward a common goal and the respect for the veterans came back,” Goodson, who was responsible for getting the Veterans Day Parade in Weatherford started in the late 1990s before the American Legion Post 163 took it over, said. “It was kind of a fad. We have to continue to support our guys serving today so what we went through won’t happen again.”
Many veterans have sworn the lack of respect shown to vets of both Vietnam and Korea will not happen again. Legion Post 163 Commander Bill Mallory said the post has had trouble getting Korean veterans to speak about the subject or join the Legion because of the bad taste in their mouths.
“They feel forgotten after what happened,” Mallory, who served three years in the Navy during the Vietnam era, said.
Part of the lack of respect comes from young people who have no idea where their freedoms come from. Mallory said in the Vietnam era nearly everyone was a veteran because of the draft, which isn’t the case anymore.
Desert Storm veterans Jacob Pelletier and David Corcoran came to the ceremony for a chance to talk to fellow vets. The pair said the respect for veterans is coming back and they were welcomed back warmly but the lack of respect is actually on a much deeper societal level.
“Unfortunately, nobody respects anyone any more, so why should veterans be any different?”
Corcoran, from Peaster, said. “It’s almost a sense of entitlement that everyone, not just kids, but adults, too, seems to have. Everything should just be handed to you. I’ll tell you, those freedoms our forefathers fought for, they weren’t given to us.”
Perhaps the proudest veteran to attend Saturday’s ceremony was 97-year-old Rosalio Rodriguez, a World War II veteran who cried when he was asked about his memories of the war, still unable to talk about it to this day.
His son, David, remembers the stories his dad would tell, saying he wasn’t proud of what he did, having to kill to defend his freedoms, for his flag and his country. The elder Rodriguez is still filled with pride of the U.S. flag and his country, crying when he sees them disrespected.
“He still goes to the Legion post and you can see his eyes well up when he sees the flag,” David Rodriguez said.
“He taught all his 10 kids to respect the flag, the country and all veterans for what they did.”
Willie Fuller said he had a bad attitude toward life and everyone when he came home from Vietnam but says the attitude has changed toward veterans with more respect being given. Bret Watson, who served in Lebanon, says for many years it wasn’t a good idea to wear your veteran apparel out in public but that has since changed.
In her invocation, Dawn King thanked all veterans who could hear her voice for their service and dedication to protecting Americans. State Rep. Phil King spoke of Texans defending their land since the battles of Gonzales and the Alamo and was grateful Texans still do.
“Texans have always served their country as well and in the finest tradition,” Phil King said.
Mallory said all veterans, wether they served in war or peace, should be treated as saviors of our country.
“They were all willing to die for a cause,” Mallory said.