'The greatest generation: Vietnam veterans'

On his way home from serving in Iraq, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia landed in Atlanta and was walking through the airport wearing his protective combat uniform when he was approached by two crying men — Vietnam veterans. They said to Bellavia, “Welcome home.” And then they said three words that Bellavia “never expected to hear from another veteran. They said, ‘I love you.’”

Bellavia is the recipient of the Silver Star for his actions during the Second Battle of Fallujah, as well as the recipient of the Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals and the New York State Conspicuous Cross. He currently resides in Batavia, N.Y., is the vice chairman of Vets for Freedom, and he published a memoir in 2007, “House to House: An Epic Memoir of War.”

Bellavia told attendees at The American Legion’s 95th national convention on Aug. 28 that after his brief encounter with the Vietnam veterans, he believes the greatest generation is those who fought for their country and never received the proper welcome home.

“I think the greatest generation is an 18-year-old kid, who can’t even spell the country he was drafted to serve in,” Bellavia said. “I think the greatest generation is a young man who instead of being homecoming king, he was told to go fight a war overseas that he didn’t ask for, he didn’t vote for. The greatest generation would turn on the radio and be told that they were baby killers by popular culture. They were told by Hollywood that they were ignorant and a fool for doing what their country asked of them.

“In my opinion, the greatest generation was a generation that stood shoulder to shoulder and protected Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from the same unwashed ignorant classes that choose to put the soldier behind the foreign policy. The greatest generation is a generation of veterans who were treated with dishonor and shame and made sure that their sons and daughters would never be treated like they were treated.”

Bellavia asked all Vietnam veterans in the audience to stand and he said, “‘Welcome home. We love you.’”

He went on to express how Americans today look at veterans as either victims or criminals, especially when it comes to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Why are we calling PTS a disorder? Don’t tell us that there isn’t a stigma with PTSD,” he said. “We weren’t born to fight. We weren’t born to kill. We weren’t even born to lead. We were born to follow until we had an opportunity to learn to lead. And just like we cannot be afraid to shoot in battle, we can’t be afraid to speak out when we come home.

“Combat is incredible. You see some of the most foolish things you can imagine. But there are also things that we see that we would never expect to see anywhere else. We see love, we see sacrifice and the grace of God. We see people of other demographics, or economic backgrounds, and you see them bleed for each other. We are brothers that God intended us to be.”

More in National Convention

 

Ari Merretazon

December 22, 2013 - 12:34am

Yes, Black soldiers paid what I considered the ultimate price in the traumatic experiences of fighting two enemies, one in the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam, and the other in the forward fire bases and sheltered rears. This was the plight of the "Bloods of Vietnam -- Black infantry soldiers -- who intentionally fought two wars in one combat zone, one with the Vietnamese and the other with White racism.

Hiflier

August 31, 2013 - 12:15pm

The Vietnam Veterans served their country when it was not the popular thing to do. They served in a war where the enemy did not stand out, consistently second-guessed by politicians, and treated very poorly by their country. Two incidents have been used to portay a very negative image of the Vietnam veteran-the My Lai massacre and the "Christmas Bombing". I have always had the utmost respect for the Vietnam Veterans and say "Thank you" for serving during extremely difficult times. This support comes from one who was on Active Duty with the Navy during Operation Desert Storm, although my unit did not deploy to the Middle East.

Hiflier

August 31, 2013 - 12:14pm

The Vietnam Veterans served their country when it was not the popular thing to do. They served in a war where the enemy did not stand out, consistently second-guessed by politicians, and treated very poorly by their country. Two incidents have been used to portay a very negative image of the Vietnam veteran-the My Lai massacre and the "Christmas Bombing". I have always had the utmost respect for the Vietnam Veterans and say "Thank you" for serving during extremely difficult times. This support comes from one who was on Active Duty with the Navy during Operation Desert Storm, although my unit did not deploy to the Middle East.

hffrkmp

August 29, 2013 - 8:29pm

The "greatest generation" - so what does that make WW2 veterans? By far the US fell short in its treatment of Vietnam & Korean War soldiers. Those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered the same shell shock, TBI, and life altering injuries as previous veterans. Perhaps because it was a hot campaign issue.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Tell us what you think