“When we came back from Vietnam, I had people call me baby killer, spit on me and the first thing I did when I would get back would be to change out of my uniform, but it was always pretty obvious that I’d just come back from Vietnam, ‘cause I’d have short hair and a real dark tan. … The public blamed the military along with the politicians for the Vietnam War.
“I think the public opinion has shifted 180 degrees. … They do everything they can now to support, honor, encourage, care for the veterans coming back from the Gulf War, Afghanistan, which I think it’s great. I think it’s wonderful.”
These are thoughts from Harry Hall, Indiana Wesleyan University director of planning and evaluation at the College of Adult and Professional Studies. He spent 28 years in the military, being an active member from 1963-1991 and retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
“The veterans these days are getting such good service,” Hall said. “It’s not like after Vietnam. … We had programs that just stunk.”
The first national celebration of Veterans Day occurred in 1947. This year, Veterans Day falls on Sunday, Nov. 11. With the Vietnam War occurring 1955-1975, needless to say, both veterans and Veterans Day are celebrated quite a bit differently now than they were then.
“When I was [college-aged], it was just post-Vietnam,” said Bill Cupp, former naval officer and IWU associate professor of computer and information sciences, “and there was not really that much recognition or appreciation or gratitude, and I’m very glad it’s different today. I’m very, very glad of that.
“I try very hard whenever I see a man or a woman in Walmart or at the Marsh, and he’s got on his Vietnam veterans hat, to walk up and say something, because they got dumped on pretty bad, and it wasn’t their fault.”
That said, Hall plans on acknowledging Veterans Day by putting on his uniform and going to two Marion elementary schools to talk to the children about being in the military, like he has in past years as well. In addition, he will be guest speaking at Marion High School at a JROTC veterans ceremony.
While Cupp doesn’t have any specific plans, he would just like people to say thanks to him. “I’m concerned that an awful lot of Americans don’t really think about the armed forces or what the people have gone through personally. Consequently, it’s easy to undervalue that. … I would be happy just that the student body as a whole understood it — understood the issue and understood the commitment — had that attitude or respect and appreciation.”
In other words, Cupp’s Veterans Day wish would be for people to just have a genuine awareness of what it means to be in the armed forces and the sacrifices those people have made.
Apart from IWU faculty, Marion itself has some specific ways of appreciating its veterans.
At Colonial Oaks Health Care Center, faculty worker Mike Long, said about 12 resident veterans are there, 20 people total if faculty members are included. Long himself is an eight-year Navy Seabee veteran.
Workers typically acknowledge Veterans Day at Colonial Oaks by gathering all the residents in the hallways and having a moment of silence. They also provide an ice cream social and give veterans the opportunity to tell war stories if they would like. They also provide Tshirts for veterans and send a picture to the Marion Chronicle-Tribune.
Long said most of their veterans are WWII veterans. “They’re an extremely special generation,” he said. “I mean, they kind of saved the world. I’m proud of them for that.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars organization in Marion also has a unique way of celebrating Veterans Day. It provides a free meal for all the veterans, as well as a special on meals Wednesday and Thursday.
“We make it a veterans week,” said VFW Quartermaster Dennis Young.
But being “the official nonprofit service for USA military veterans benefits,” according to the VFW website, the group helps veterans year-round anyway.
“We help veterans every chance we get,” Young said. “A lot of people sacrificed their lives, and I appreciate it. I wear my POW jacket every day of the year.”
“It’s just a time to acknowledge the sacrifices that people have made in defense of the country,” said Hall. “You go in harm’s way. You go where people are there to kill you. That’s quite a sacrifice. Most people wouldn’t do that. If we didn’t have military, there wouldn’t be any of the freedoms we have today.”
“[Veteran’s Day is] a good idea to have that time to stop and look at what others have done and put up with so we can have the country that we do,” Cupp added. “I had an awful lot of wonderful experiences. I went places I would have never gone otherwise. I did some fun things. I did some hard things — a lot of hard work. I learned an enormous amount of people skills. … I did a lot of stuff that mattered. And that sounds trivial, but golly, when you’re in your uniform, and you’re in Japan, and you’re dealing with officers and diplomats from the Japanese government, you’re thinking, ‘This is important.’ Ya know?”