I am writing this letter in total support of the Kearns Community Center. As a Vietnam combat veteran, I unfortunately had to leave 20 of my brothers in the jungles of Laos in a war that historically is known as the Secret War, because the United States disavowed being there at the time. It took 40 years after I returned home for our squadron to be recognized with the awarding of a Presidential Unit Citation, due to the fact we were sworn to secrecy about our mission. We did not exist. In addition to the 20 airmen lost in combat, many more died through the years and never saw the day of their recognition in Washington.
When faced with the reality that I, or no one else could bring back our lost comrades, I chose to dedicate as much time as I could to help veterans of all wars, as well as active duty personnel. I am gratefully allowed to do this by being a member of the steering committee for Resilience Grows Here (RGH), a group of volunteers working with veterans, active duty personnel of the 103rd Air Wing at Bradley Airport, and their spouses and children. I have also become certified as a suicide prevention trainer (QPR training), which allows me to bring this much needed awareness to both military and civilians in the community.
So, with all of this, and with all the dedicated volunteers trying to assist the community through support, and the sponsorship of numerous events throughout the year, there is only one thing missing—a place we can call home.
Being a Vietnam veteran, I know the feeling of coming home to a nation for which I fought, that welcomed me back with empty arms, blame, disrespect and chants of “baby killer.” Admittedly it took a long time, but thankfully I have been able, with the help of a lot of family and friends, to put the anger, sadness and disappointment in those I felt abandoned me when I needed them most, behind me.
My heart and soul are in this battle to find a home for all veterans in need, and that home should be the Kearns Community Center. In our suicide prevention training alone, we can account for the saving of 31 lives, and that is what we can document. Who knows how many other lives have been saved, and will be saved in the future. The Kearns Community Center will give us a place of our own, a place where even our Vietnam vets can truly experience, perhaps for the first time, welcome home.