Heartfelt thanks and an apology

Posted: Thursday, April 20, 2000

Thank you to Mac Metcalfe and the Empire for the moving article in Sunday's paper regarding Juneau's Vietnam War veterans. I remember almost all of those mentioned, since most were a couple of years ahead of me in high school. (My oldest son's godfather, Gary Waid, was among those who served but was not mentioned).

The first personal, emotional impact I ever felt from the war was when Juneau received news that Don Sperl had been killed. As the paper mentioned, Don was a conscientious objector who served his country, but wouldn't carry weapons. I didn't know Don personally, but he had been a basketball star and one of the most well-liked students in the school. The high school choir, of which I was a member, sang at his memorial service in the high school gymnasium. I went home and cried bitterly for the loss of this young man I did not know, and formed some strong opinions.

I opposed the Vietnam War and marched in protests when I was in college. I worried about those fighting the war, and I wanted them safely home. These young men were either drafted or were moved by their hearts to fight a war that they believed would preserve freedom for others and stem the threat of communism in the world. It would be an understatement for me to say each one must have been profoundly affected by the experience. They must have wondered what was wrong with the picture when they returned home to see thousands marching in opposition to the war instead of in parades to welcome them home.

To each of Juneau's Vietnam War veterans, I hope it's not too late. I write not to apologize for my opposition to the war; I cannot erase by beliefs. But I apologize from the bottom of my heart for not welcoming you back with open arms. Welcome back to every one of you. I applaud you for your bravery and your willingness to fight for freedom and your country. I'm so grateful for your return and apologize for, in my youth, not understanding your need and your right to be recognized and honored for your courage and your contributions. You are heroes with incredible stories to tell. Please share more with us.

Jan Gregg Levy Class of `69 Juneau

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