This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi. We are sharing it with permission of the author’s parents. Photos by Jeff Clark, Sun Herald.
On March 29, my mom took me to the Biloxi National Cemetery’s Vietnam memorial service. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what happened made me both sad and proud.
Seventh grader Charles Fink hugs a Vietnam Veteran at Biloxi National Cemetery. Photo by Jeff Clark, Sun Herald.
When we arrived at the service, we took our seats. As the Vietnam Veterans started to arrive, I introduced myself and shook each one’s hand. I thanked each Veteran for their service. Several of these Veterans got tears in their eyes.
I was kind of sad that they thought kids like me didn’t know anything about Vietnam. One 80-year-old colonel asked me to take a picture with him.
When the first Vietnam Veteran speaker began, I kind of got upset. How could people treat Veterans the way that these Veterans were treated after the war? I felt mad when I heard about the role the media played during the war and the things they said the American troops did.
The speaker told us about a chemical called Agent Orange, and I felt bad that so many Veterans had to endure that. The speaker also told us how many Veterans served in the war and how many died.
I was sad that the Veterans were not respected or recognized when they came home from war. I am upset that the Veterans’ physical and mental illnesses were not taken care of.
My mom and dad are both Marine Corps Veterans, and I would’ve been upset if my parents had been treated that way. My dad works at the Biloxi VA hospital, so he teaches me how to respect and talk to Veterans.
As the speaker talked, I began crying. I have been to the National Vietnam Memorial. I have seen my cousins’ names on the wall. I have seen how this war caused PTSD in two of my uncles. After the ceremony and after taps was played, I gave the speaker a hug, and I cried.
I learned more today about the Vietnam War than I ever have before. I am glad these Veterans are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
St. Patrick High School, 7th grade