Letter: Reflections on the Patriot’s Day Parade

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It always starts with the reminder that the Patriot’s Day Parade is next Saturday. I think it is anxiety. All I know is that it is a very uncomfortable feeling. It is like life — the good, the bad,  and the ugly.

I am a Vietnam veteran and I took the leap to walk with other veterans several years ago. At that time I was a combat veteran — afraid to walk in my own home town parade — but I did. It was the anxiety. As I get older there are fewer of us that walk. Every time is different but every time the anxiety returns. Today there is acceptance. Fifty years ago, I came home from Vietnam having risked everything for my country to find that we all were rejected. The hurt has made a mark that still burns in my soul.

This year I asked other veterans what they were feeling. I connected with one in particular. He was a Navy combat medic who server with the Marines. Funny, we vets always want to know when we were there and what we did. It impressed me that after that introduction the conversation turned to the names of the psychiatrists and psychologists we interacted with at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Long Beach and our path back from war.

Little did we realize it at the time but that was our next encounter with combat. It was the combat of going to war and risking death on death’s terms. Then coming home, having survived the experience, to rejection. It was a time of extreme emotional pain. Slowly it was the realization that I was changed forever by war and my experience — yet life was demanding that I get on with it. We survived, yet 20 veterans commit suicide everyday. The fact of the matter is that the war never goes away for me or others

I woke up Saturday morning early because I had a bad night. I wondered, why do they call it the Patriots Day Parade? I consulted Webster. A patriot is a person who loves and loyally or zealously supports his country.

Our parade is great because each group walked because they had the freedom.

We were given a gift and regardless of our perspectives on life or politics our obligation is to pull together for the benefit of us all. Let’s hope we can find that path.

Eric Jensen, Captain, U S Navy, retired.

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  1. I’m so glad that you walk in the parade despite your anxiety and misgivings, and I appreciate the fact that you’ve shared your feelings in this public forum. Most of all, I appreciate your service to our country, and I hope these words don’t sound empty to you. It means everything to me that you put your life on the line for us. Thank you, Captain Jensen.


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