08/15/11 — A hero, always: War mystery solved brings closure -- and a poignant reminder of sacrifice

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A hero, always: War mystery solved brings closure -- and a poignant reminder of sacrifice

When Vietnam veterans came home from war, some of them did not get the reception they deserved.

Held responsible for what some called disasterous and immoral decisions made by politicians in Washington, the brave men and women who fought in the war found themselves the targets of anger and disrespect.

In retrospect, many people now realize that we should have been thanking those who risked their lives to fight for their nation. We understand that hindsight is 20/20 and that the perspective we have now might not be the right interpretation of events in the context of the time.

And many people haved vowed that no veterans returning from war will ever face those kinds of conditions again.

They make sure their returns are marked with flags and cheers -- and thanks.

But even if some people question why we were there, there is one aspect that all agree on -- we want all those we lost during those years, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, to be back home on U.S. soil.

In a few weeks, we will welcome back Maj. Tom Reitmann, an aviator whose plane went down in Vietnam decades ago. Long thought to be lost forever, his remains have been located, identified and are now being sent home to his family for burial in Arlington National Cemetery.

And his adopted community should be part of that welcome home -- even if it is only in spirit.

Maj. Reitmann is one of many service members -- those who made it back and those who did not -- to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for what they did for this nation under terrible conditions so many years ago. We should honor their sacrifices, their years spent in confinement and their difficult journeys once they returned home.

It is the least we can do for all they gave.

We also owe thanks to their families, especially those, like the Reitmanns, who were forced to live their lives without a beloved husband and father.

Maj. Reitmann's return is our chance to make sure a hero has the welcome home he deserves. It is our chance to make it right.

We have learned much since Vietnam -- at least some of us have.

We understand now just how much service members give when they are called to action.

And we use that knowledge as we welcome home, and support, the men and women who are currently carrying out the mission in the Middle East.

We have pledged to be there for them, no matter what.

And that is how it should be.

Published in Editorials on August 15, 2011 11:01 AM