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When the veterans from my era came home from Vietnam, we came home to a divided country. We were told what to expect, but it did not prepare us for what would happen to so many of us. The anti-war fevor was at a high pitch and there was very little room for compromise, of even friendly conversations around that subject. Those who supported us were outnumbered by then, and were often shy about saying so in public for fear of being ridiculed, even rejected. But those who were against the war, and by analogy, those who had fought in it, felt more than free to harrass, to accuse, to denegrate, and to abuse us. They had the numbers and were the loudest and proudest at the time. As a result, most of us just retracted into our shells, and went on with our lives.
When I was picked up at the Kenndy Airport by my parents, I had already gotten my first initiations into this anger while waiting for them. My parents were tortured by the fact that they had not been there when my plane landed. You see, because of unavoidable circumstances, I was unable to reach them on the phone (remember, this was pre-cell phone era) before I had to board the flight from Los Angeles to New York, so they did not know I was in country until I called them from Kennedy Airport. We lived in Connecticut at the time, so it took them anout 45 minutes to drive down to pick me up. They knew what the climate of the times were and they were full of apologies, though I did not need them. I was just happy to see them.
On arrival at our family home, I went into the house from the garage, climbed the stairs to the living room and was greeted by my two best friends, yelling their greetings and wrapping me in bear hugs. I couldn't have been more thrilled. I met other old friends over the next days and weeks, but most of them were tentative, or even cold with me. They could not seperate their feelings for me from those that they had about the war I had just survived and come home from, and they rejected me.
But those two friends who were waiting for me in my living room, stayed friends, gave me their full support, and stood by me even through the crazy PTSD times over those first years back in "the world" after Vietnam. Their patience, their friendship, gave me the support I needed to recover myself and to step out into the rest of my life. One of those friends is still with me and the rest of my family today. He has just retired from a career in teaching and we and our families are going to be able to spend more time together enjoying the new possiblities that retirement offers. Having a good friend is a wealth greater than gold.