- Faith & Family
America would never be the land of the free, if it were not also the home of the brave. Countless brave veterans have risked their lives so that we could live freely, and often times their efforts go unrecognized.
Curtis Latimer, Vietnam veteran — who served in the Air Force and is also a military retiree — doesn’t remember homecoming parades or survival celebrations after serving in the Vietnam War. He remembers feeling as if he had to sneak back into the country. He and other soldiers, who had watched their friends and fellow soldiers die, but miraculously made it back to their home sweet home to only feel unwanted. Many were called “crooks” and “murderers.”
“It was like they hated us,” Latimer, said.
“We were veterans too, but the country turned their backs on us.”
It made him once feel ashamed to be a Vietnam veteran. He said that although many Americans disagreed with the ”war, the soldiers didn’t have any choice and were sent to Vietnam to fight. Even though Latimer came back to the country with a head wound and post traumatic stress disorder, he is happy he made it back to the country with his life and looks forward to celebrating Veteran’s Day on Nov. 12.
“Freedom is not free,” Latimer said.
“Every veteran whether for one day or if you have retired in the military, Veterans day is your day.”
Similar to Latimer, other local veterans shared that they also enjoy celebrating Veterans Day, but don’t feel appreciated by American people who have not served.
Bradley Martin, 23, fought in the Afghanistan war from July 2011-Feb. 2012. Martin said he was proud to serve because a lot of people don’t get the opportunity, but “nobody really seems to care.”
“It seems to be pointless to the civilian community,” he said. “The only people who really care that you’re a vet are other vets.”
Martin is happy to have made it back home with “all of [his] body parts” and he said that being in war has given him more appreciation for being home. He will be celebrating his first Veterans Day as a veteran this year with his family.
Patricia A. Barber, who served as a sergeant in the Afghanistan war, said Veterans Day means a lot to her. Barber works in Compensation and Pensions at the Veterans Administration Hospital.
“We sacrifice our families to go out and serve the country,” she said.
Although Barber feels that she missed out on some important moments with her family, while in the military, she is still very passionate about being a veteran and informing other veterans about services and benefits that are available to them. She gets the opportunity to help many veterans while working at the Veterans Administration Hospital.
“Who can better help them than those who were in their boots,” she said.
“We know the pain, that we went through, the sacrifice and everything.”
Barber said she will spend Veteran’s Day with other veterans. She said she enjoys making the most of the discounts and benefits that are available to Veterans on that day.
Barber will also celebrate being a veteran by attending Congresswoman Fredricka Wilson’s Veteran’s Day Salute and Celebration on Nov. 9 at 11a.m. at the American Legion Post 29. The Congresswoman encourages all Veterans who want to take part in the celebration to call 305-690-5905.
Wilson said she feels that Vietnam veterans didn’t get the recognition that they deserve.
She shared a story of a time when she was a little girl and Veterans had big homecoming celebrations after serving, they were even viewed as heroes to young children, but she has noticed the change.
“I feel that Veterans returning home don’t get the recognition they deserve after servicing our country, and we need to bring back that old-time spirit,” Congresswoman Wilson said.
By Malika A. Wright