Welcome Home Veterans
by Karren Ganschinietz
NAHCA CNA Commission Member
Fall is here, the leaves are changing their colors, the days are getting shorter, and the holidays are racing upon us. One holiday that is close to my heart is Veteran's Day. Last year on Veteran's Day I had the honor of attending a luncheon with a few of our American heroes from the Missouri Veterans Home.
As the guest speaker started to present, I glanced around the room. The smiles had left the faces of the men and women that were being honored that day; sadness had settled in its place. They sat there in silence with their heads bowed down.
As I listened to the words, I felt somewhat out of place and bowed my own head. How could my country—their country, ask so much from them and then place shame upon them when they returned home from war? How could Americans judge them, calling them baby killers and even spitting on them? How could our country send these men and women into battle for our freedom and treat them with such disrespect, not even welcoming them home?
I had a similar experience while I was in Washington, D.C. for the NAHCA conference in September. While visiting the Vietnam Wall with other CNAS we saw many veterans, some with their companies placing wreaths, others with their families telling their stories. As I walked through the crowd, I felt the unwelcome feeling of despair and the words of the luncheon speaker I had heard from last year came to mind.
These men gave the ultimate sacrifice to us and to their country, asking for nothing in return. I paused for a second to watch another wreath being placed and I felt a hand on my elbow. I turned to look, standing next to me was an older gentlemen with a Veteran’s cap on. He said in a very low crackling voice “I am very sorry for your loss.” I explained to him that I had not lost someone but that I was a nursing assistant for elderly veterans at the Missouri Veterans Home in Missouri. I explained I and others were there for a conference and at that point we both began to cry, together.
I couldn't shake those painful thoughts from that luncheon—the horrible treatment the returning Veterans came home to. The gentlemen said “Now come on, being here in DC couldn't be that bad!” I smiled and said “No we have an award winner” as I pointed to the CNA that had won. I shared with him why I was so overwhelmed. He put his arm around me and gave me a big hug. He whispered into to my ear that what I had heard from the speaker at the luncheon was the truth, but it didn't matter to him. I whispered back “welcome home my friend and it matters to me.” We hugged each other again and said goodbye.
You see not all holidays are filled with joy and magical moments. This Veterans Day I ask each of you to say “thank you” to a veteran and most of all please say “welcome home”.
I would like to extend a special thank you to Lashundra Williams for making his day a day to remember, to Sherry Perry for taking a picture of this special moment, a picture I will always cherish and Tina Roberts for taking pictures for us to bring back to our Veterans!