Vietnam veteran 'Spider' hopes new Welcome Home heals old wounds
One of the veterans in Washington DC as part of the Welcome Home tour runs a fireworks shop in Michiana. He hopes his visit to the Vietnam Memorial Wall will heal some of the wounds left by the reception he got upon returning home in the 70s.
Harold "Spider" Draves started playing with fireworks as a kid, but similar cracks and booms became the soundtrack of his youth when he was drafted to the Marines in 1969.
"1969 to 1970, 21 months, 12 days. I was an artillery man. I had a chance to be on a fire base Dong How Mountain. Whenever a fire mission came in, and there was lots of them, our job was to supply support for these people, and we did a lot of that. So you shoot 6, 800 rounds. Pretty impressive," Spider said.
Impressive tanks, impressive snipers and impressive how much Spider stood out when he went into town.
"Everybody over there is little, and I wasn't always this big, but even then I couldn't set back in their movie theaters, because my hips and my shoulders were so wide," Spider said.
He thought he would finally feel comfortable when he came home.
"But when I came back to the states, we had lots of protestors," Spider said.
"You had to walk through this crowd to get into the airport and people would stand in your way, they would yell at you, call you names. They would throw stuff at you. I got hit with some coffee grounds and some lettuce and stuff like that. The guy next to me got hit with an egg, and it splattered. People don't realize how really cruel and vicious the protestors were, how much it really hurt. It leaves an impression," Spider said.
How did he deal with it?
"I went home. Tried to get over it or get past it, you know. Most people didn't talk about it. It was hard finding a job. Nobody really wanted to hire us," Spider said.
After a while, Spider opened Spiderworks' Fireworks.
He's also finally feeling good about revisiting his past with a supportive welcome home.
"It was hard to go and sign up, but it's just something I needed to do and maybe it will make me feel better about it, I don't know. I've never been to the wall, so I don't really know what to expect. A couple friends told me you'll be surprised, so I'll wait and see," Spider said.
Spider will be looking for the names of 11 Mishawaka classmates who didn't make it back from Vietnam when he visits the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Saturday.