While they like many of their generation did not talk a lot about their time in the military I know they too were proud they could serve their country.
When each of my parents died their military service was front and center in their funerals and in the obituary information printed about them.
We as a family felt it spoke to their character that they would willingly join the military during wartime and make what contribution they could to the effort.
It was part of what made them who they were as people and parents.
They did it out of love of our country, not for thanks, or recognition or glory.
But they and all who serve of have served us honorably in the military should be respected for what they did.
To me that is what patriotism and being willing to serve one’s country is all about. Those people who are willing to serve are heroes who deserve our thanks.
That is what Memorial Day is all about. But when we celebrated the day to honor our military and veterans this year, for the first time I really saw clearly how those returning from wars don’t get the respect they deserve.
Of course, it really started back in the Vietnam War when my generation was young and the anti-war movement strong.
How sad that those returning from the war were spit at and vilified for their time in the military instead of treated with respect.
It was not the fault of those brave young men and women who joined up or were drafted that the war was not supported at home. Everyone should not have taken the blame for the atrocities committed by some or for the politics of the situation.
Now, many years later, the same thing is happening here at home as our military return from overseas. Many of them are being blamed for the war instead of thanked for their service.
They are finding it hard to get jobs. Many have lost their homes and their families when they return. Their world is up-side down, and instead of those who sit here and enjoy the freedoms they fought for reaching out a helping hand, they are ignored or worse scorned by many.
Last week the newspaper printed a story about a man who received the Purple Heart for his service to his country.
Turned out, the man has a troubled past and has been arrested several times for a variety of crimes, although so far he has not been convicted of any.
The man, Monroe Seigle, readily admits that he is “no angel, no hero,” but says during the time he spent in the military he did a good job.
The medal was given for what he did in Iraq. He was proud to be a Marine.
He suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, a common diagnosis for those who have returned from war. He says he wants to dedicate his career to helping other returning vets get the help they need to cope with problems they might face and just re-entering ordinary life.
According to the Veterans Administration there are as many as 67,000 veterans any one night without shelter or a place to stay and as many as 144,000 each year have to seek shelter for a night at a community outreach.
They say they are now dedicated to helping end homelessness among those returning from wars.
During the Memorial Day celebration broadcast on public television from Washington D.C., most of the stories shared were of hardships veterans were facing, including those who could not fit into society, who fought with family or others, who faced difficulties getting and keeping jobs and who self medicate with alcohol and drugs.
The message was not upbeat, but I think it was more realistic, and made people like me realize that not everyone appreciates what our veterans do, and that many come back damaged in different ways.
I think we have to admit that the public’s lack of support for our military and what they do for us is part of the problem.
Each of us should make a new commitment to show our appreciation to those serving, not just in words but in actions.
My parents returned from World War II to a country united in patriotism. They returned to opportunities such as school and jobs. They felt appreciated for what they did.
For those returning today, the message is not always as clear, and maybe we need to speak it a little more loudly.
And maybe we shouldn’t do it just on one day, but all year long.
Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.