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posted: 6/11/2012 11:25 AM

Vietnam veteran overwhelmed by 'welcome home'

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  • The Marine Corps League rides in the Memorial Day parade in Monday in Arlington Heights.

       The Marine Corps League rides in the Memorial Day parade in Monday in Arlington Heights.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Chapter 311 of the Vietnam Veterans of America march in the Memorial Day parade in Arlington Heights.

       Chapter 311 of the Vietnam Veterans of America march in the Memorial Day parade in Arlington Heights.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Steve Sharel of Arlington Heights marches with the Vietnam Veterans of America. Sharel served onboard the carrier USS Enterprise during the war.

       Steve Sharel of Arlington Heights marches with the Vietnam Veterans of America. Sharel served onboard the carrier USS Enterprise during the war.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Brigadier General Gracus K. Dunn, Commanding General of the 85th Support Command, Arlington Heights, salutes parade goers.

       Brigadier General Gracus K. Dunn, Commanding General of the 85th Support Command, Arlington Heights, salutes parade goers.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Members of the Arlington Heights American Legion Merle Guild Post 208 carry the flag.

       Members of the Arlington Heights American Legion Merle Guild Post 208 carry the flag.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • William Dussling

      William Dussling

 
By Bill Dussling
Special to the Daily Herald

It has taken me a few days to process the Arlington Heights Memorial Day parade. First, I want to thank Greg Padovani and Alan Van Bladel for the invitation to have the Vietnam veterans march in the parade. I also want to thank the Village of Arlington Heights and those that organized the parade for the opportunity to march.

When Greg and Alan told me that part of the parade this year was a welcome home for the Vietnam veterans and that they were seeking veterans to march, and that they would like me to march, I was somewhat taken aback. After living through the Vietnam War era, serving there and then feeling that those of us who served there were not valued for our service, I pretty much put that part of my life behind me.

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But there was always a part of me that felt saddened that my service and the service of others who served in Vietnam were not appreciated. I did have a "Welcome Home" by my wife and family when I returned, and the happiness of being back safely seemed to be enough. But Greg and Alan's invitation awakened that feeling of needing some appreciation, so I agreed to march.

As the day of the parade approached, I wondered more about how many of us would march and the reception we would receive. On the day of the parade, when we were assembling at our parade position, I was amazed at the number of Vietnam veterans that were there.

The conversations were amazing: Memories were clear about the time spent there and things that happened. The finest words of expression were when someone shook your hand and said "Welcome Home." Eyes misted and the same words were said in return.

The parade started. My daughter, her husband and their two children marched with me. I was stunned by the people along the route. They were all standing and clapping for us. I saw so many mouth the words "thank you" and all I could do is mouth the same words back.

I carried a towel and water because it was a hot day -- I found that most of the time I was using the towel to wipe my eyes. It was amazing! The parade and outpouring of gratitude by those observing the parade certainly made me feel "Welcomed Home" and closed a loop in my life.

I must tell you a great thing that happened to me on Thursday night before Memorial Day. My wife and I attended the Buffalo Grove High School Senior Honors Concert. Ed Jacobi, the band director at Buffalo Grove, is a good friend and sometimes he asks if I, as a board of education member, would welcome the audience to the concert.

I welcomed the audience and then Ed surprised me by presenting me with a plaque detailing the article about me marching in the parade on Memorial Day that Deb Donovan reported in the Daily Herald. I was stunned as the audience stood and clapped.

Then Ed said that he was dedicating the song that the band would play in the Memorial Day parade to me. It was Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever." He also invited me to march part of the parade with him and the band. I marched half the parade with the veterans and half with Ed and the Buffalo Grove High School Band.

The thoughtfulness of Greg Padovani, Alan Van Bladel, Arlington Heights, the parade organizers and Ed Jacobi and the Buffalo High School Band will never be forgotten.

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