Because of your smile you make life more beautiful. ~Thich Nhat Hanh
While dining at a restaurant near San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, this friendly gentleman (Pictured on the left in the photo) and his wife were seated at the table next to us.
Being naturally curious we ask, “Where are you from?”
Our Minnesota Nice reflex kicks in and we begin to chat, noticing their accents do not sound like your typical Canadian.
I can’t resist… “Have you always lived in Canada?” Thus, begins their interesting tale…
Following the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, the family business was taken away by the Communists and father/son were both thrown in prison. His father spent seven years in prison… Wow.
Fortunately, his sister was able to flee in a boat eventually relocating in Canada. Years later, she sponsored him, his wife and two daughters creating an opportunity for a new life in Canada. At age forty they found themselves starting over in a new country learning to understand its culture and language. As a welder and chef, they work extremely hard to make the best of their new lives, allowing them to not only survive, but also thrive. Infectious smiles along with a “glass half full” outlook on life touched our hearts. At age seventy they are still employed and have no desire to retire as long as health allows.
Growing up watching the Vietnam War on the nightly news sparked a fascination with this country and its culture. Being curious and reaching out makes history come alive and I walk away truly inspired.
Regardless of political leanings to the left, right, or anywhere in between, we expect American citizens to show respect to those in uniform. This has not always been the case.
Flashback to the Vietnam War era.
The G.I.’s returning home from the unpopular Vietnam Conflict, during the 1960’s and early 1970’s, were protested and threatened when wearing uniforms in public. It was even necessary to hide their tell-tale haircuts when in civilian attire. Most were barely out of high school when they were drafted and quietly arrived home, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
This is a personal issue in my household. My husband enlisted into the military at age 17 during the era of draft numbers and Vietnam. He was on military flights that had to be gated off from the public, upon landing, due to anti-war protests. In the United States, they tried to hide their military identity when engaged in activities off base for their own safety. During military leaves and upon returning home to the Midwest, he remembers going to area dances only to have individuals against the Vietnam war wanting to inflict physical harm because of his service. Not much of a welcome home.
Now military service is acknowledged with send-off ceremonies and welcome home celebrations while families at home have access to a network of support groups. Challenges still exist as war is never pretty, popular or pleasant, but at least we are not adding to the stress. Vietnam veterans can’t help but think, where was all this when I returned?