It’s been nearly 40 years and Jerry Taylor still remembers the young girl who greeted him in that California airport, shortly after returning home from his tour in Vietnam.
“I was about halfway down the terminal when she came up to me and spit in my face and called me a ‘baby killer,’” Taylor said.
Unfortunately, that kind of welcome was all too similar for many returning Vietnam veterans. It’s a reason Taylor never really talked about his time serving in the United States Navy during the war — at least not for the first 30 years after his return.
However, sentiments have changed over the course of the last decade and being a Vietnam veteran is looked at in a much different light these days, which has made discussing his tour of duty much easier for Taylor. Now he makes sure to greet any veteran he sees with a “Welcome home, brother.”
He’s found the greatest comfort in sharing his stories with other veterans.
“It’s easy for someone who was over there to talk to someone who was over there,” Taylor said. “If you didn’t experience the fear and frustration you went through, you just can’t describe it.”
So Taylor, working with the encouragement of three other local Vietnam veterans, set out to bring as many Eaton County veterans together for a time to socialize, share stories, and camaraderie.
Saturday, June 24, beginning at noon at the pavilion at Bennett Park in Charlotte, Taylor is hoping to bring together as many veterans as possible.
“In the last 10 years I’ve started seeing guys wear the hats or have the license plates that identify them as a Vietnam veteran,” Taylor said. “I would like to provide a simple way for all of us to get together, just to sit and talk. Knowing there is someone else who went through similar things, maybe it’s a way to help other guys.”
There is nothing really planned, Taylor said, no meal or planned speeches, just an opportunity to come together to talk and to listen.
“We had the greatest time getting together to plan this,” Taylor said of the small group of veterans, which includes Dave Smith, Fred Meyers and Darrell Gingrich, that have been talking about the event. “We sat there at Big Boy sharing stories when we had two other veterans come and join us. We had the best darn two hours just talking and visiting.”
The June 24 gathering is open to all Vietnam veterans. For more information, contact Taylor at (517) 543-4583.