At the risk of being alienated by my fellow veterans, I need to speak out for myself and for other Vietnam-era veterans.

In 1965, I volunteered for the military of my own volition. I left home on my 18th birthday. I spent seven years in duty to my country, and I’ve been all over the world. I volunteered twice for duty in Vietnam, but was denied because I was needed elsewhere.

Little did I know then that I would spend more than four decades being a second-class veteran.

Although we never were “in country,” we shared equally in what those vets felt when we all came home. I was in uniform when I was spit upon at O’Hare Airport and called names. When I arrived home in Waterville, people I formerly knew wanted nothing to do with me.

At Togus, we have a co-pay each time we need health care that was promised to us. The reason? Because we are not Vietnam veterans; we are Vietnam-era veterans.

Now, another wedge has been driven between us: Only Vietnam veterans were honored in the Waterville ceremony. Since we were not there, we are somehow less than they are.

I’m very let down that what I and many others so proudly did during that time are ignored. We Vietnam-era veterans also have feelings. And what we did in other corners of the world back then was as important and in defense of our country.

I’m proud of my second-class service to this country. I am still a veteran and always will be. Maybe someday, these injustices will be rectified, and we’ll all be equal, with no divisions.

Michael E. Williams Sr., Waterville

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