VIETNAM veterans groups are rallying around a plan to protect
Operation Desert Storm troops from the kind of homecoming that
soldiers received on their return from the Vietnam War.
Although local examples abound, Congress is also getting into the
act through support for "Operation Homefront," an initiative of Sen.
Steve Symms (R) of Idaho.
Mr. Symms is proposing nothing more elaborate than congressional
encouragement and moral support for grass-roots committees preparing
a noisy and enthusiastic welcome home for American soldiers.
Calling for parades, rallies, support services for soldiers'
families, and discount coupons for everything from ski-lift tickets
to sneakers, the senator several weeks ago kicked off "Operation
Homefront." A former US marine, Symms has put his in-state staff at
the disposal of local groups organizing support for the troops.
At last report, a US Senate resolution supporting the plan had
gained 16 co-sponsors in addition to praise from veterans' groups.
"There is room for disagreement about US policy in the Persian
Gulf," Symms said when he announced Operation Homefront.
"It is my fervent hope, however, that disagreement is limited to
policy, and that the fine men and women we've put in harm's way do
not suffer the public scorn which greeted veterans returning from
Vietnam," Symms said.
"Nothing tears at my heart more than the reception Vietnam
veterans received upon returning home," he said. "Many of those who
served in Southeast Asia disagreed with the war, yet they answered
the call and served their country. They should have received a
hero's welcome when they came home."
Veterans groups have signed on. "We have unequivocally,
unanimously endorsed that initiative," said J. Thomas Burch Jr.,
chairman of the National Vietnam Veterans coalition, which
represents about 50 veterans groups and nearly a half-million
"One of the problems we felt the most strongly (in Vietnam) was a
lack of public support at home," Mr. Burch said. "Not so much a lack
of support for the war as a lack of support for us as fighting men."
Burch said that while the phrase "Never Again" has mostly been
used in recent weeks to describe the US commitment to wage
unrestrained war against Iraq, it has become a watchword of support
among Vietnam veterans groups who are committed to protecting Desert
Storm warriors from humiliation at home.
"We want to make sure all these men are not treated as we were,"
he said, "We're very interested in what happens when they come
Symms' initiative to help plan hero's welcomes for soldiers
returning from the Gulf is also winning support from those who are
helping heal the psychological scars of the last US war. …