Thursday, July 11, 2013

Operation Homecoming

Nothing can produce emotion, passion and controversy like war. How could anyone ever forget the scene of a returning POW from Vietnam kissing the ground as he first set foot on U.S. soil after years of captivity, and the thrill of watching his wife and children run across the tarmac and into his open arms?  When a soldier comes home, it is a joyous reunion.

War also claims victims and produces often untold suffering. Men and women are killed, and their loved ones mourn. Taps, flags, military funerals, tears of sadness, grief and shattered dreams are all products of war.

For the families of the Missing soldiers it was absolute uncertainty, not knowing if your father, husband or son was coming home. Not knowing if he was alive, dead, or deserted in some POW Camp.  Rumors were rampant that many more soldiers were prisoners than were actually coming home.  Soldiers who answered the call of their country were left behind 8,000 miles from their loved ones.  Men lost to Peace negotiations that did not make their homecoming a priority.

I was barley six when my father went missing, and on that spring day I not only mourned the man I adored and worshiped but I grieved the loss of my family.  My dad was the glue that held our family together and after the day two soldiers knocked at our door nothing was ever the same again.  After my dad went missing our family disintegrated into dysfunction our home was a battlefield filled with, struggles, fights, anger and resentment.  Home was no longer a safe haven but an embittered place of sadness, loneliness and fear.   Eventually each of the older siblings left home at early ages.

I can recall between February and April of 1973, "Operation Homecoming".  The prisoners of war from Vietnam were coming home.  I was barely 11 years old, and I sat glued to a tiny black and white TV, that my older sister was lucky enough to possess at the nightmarish orphanage in which we resided.  Nazareth House in San Diego, California was where I and two of my siblings were abandoned.  I had to watch the homecoming in secret, filled with fear of grave reprisal by the sadistic people that operated the extremely strict regimented and abusive group home.  My sister and I watched intensely lost in our own thoughts filled with hope and prayers.

As each soldier exited the plane onto American soil, I awaited, anticipated and dreamed that the next soldier to appear might be my dad.  For days upon days, I watched these joyous reunions, praying, begging and pleading for my daddy to come home. Mixed emotions engulfed my spirit, I felt joy for the children who ran to their father with jubilee, I saw their excitement and was happy for their reunion, but simultaneously envy crept in.  I was jealous I wanted that to be me running into my father’s arms.   The tears began to flow with each passing hour. After days I was overcome with feelings of forlorn as hopes, wishes and dreams slowly dissipated.

I finally realized my father, my hero, would not be coming home.  It was devastating and the enormity of the impact on my life was tremendous and would not be fully realized for years to come.  I would never gaze upon my father's face again, or feel his comforting arms around me. I would wither and die in this abusive orphanage scared, lonely and sad.  I began to cry.....

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