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Friday, November 11. 2011
A clip from a series on History Channel about Vietnam experiences told by those who served. This clip expresses experiences shared by many of us returning to the States. Today and every day, better Veterans Days.
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I came back in '69 after my second tour. I did not return home between, just swung from one to the other. I was ready though - I had thought of extending for one more and finish out my enlistment, but I had a feeling my luck was running out after a couple of close calls so it was time to didi mau.
It was strange leaving the country as I remember it. The wheels left the ground and the plane was silent - I will remember that to this day- dead silent. When the pilot announced we had left Vietnamese air space, we all cheered, shook hands, etc. It as almost as if we were waiting for some kind of recall or mishap - whatever it was, the relief didn't come until we cleared airspace - then it became a party of sorts.
Back in the States? It was ugly. When I arrived in Boston, my Dad and a couple of his ex-Navy buddies met me at Logan. I was in uniform - just as described in fact and the exact same thing happened - people just wouldn't look at you - move to the other side of the concourse aisle - anything not to be near you. There were protesters outside the terminal and we had to walk through them. About ten or so returnees, Air Force, Army, Marines - I think even a Squid - we all banded together with our parents who came to meet us and walked to the parking area. The protesters got it quickly - they weren't going to mess with us by blocking our path, but they sure as hell wanted to let us know that we were murderers, baby killers, beasts of the night - it was awful. I had been warned about it, but I didn't realize the extent of it and just how vicious these people could be.
The worst though were my "friends". Nobody wanted to hang, nobody wanted to do some bar hopping - nobody wanted to be seen with me - except for my girlfriend (now my wife) and her parents who welcomed me home with enthusiasm. Being a defiant SOB, I wore my uniform to church on Sunday - no joke, our family had a pew almost to ourselves. And the priest, the prick, did the homily on how war was evil and to pray for those who were victims of military oppression. It may have been my imagination, but I swear he was looking directly at me when he was saying these things.
I was going to take 45 days of leave time, but I left for my last duty assignment two weeks after I got back. My parents, my family and my wife tried to make my coming home a positive thing, but I wanted to get back to where I felt I belonged. As strange as it may sound, I wanted to return to my "real" family. I know now that it was a mistake, but it felt right at the time. Fortunately it worked out.
It's all over with now. I can look back on the experience and see the positives through the forest of negatives. I can say now that I understand why - history has a way of getting to the truth eventually. And fences have been mended over the years, friendships reestablished and life returned to "normal" if life can ever be normal.
I can forgive.
I will never forget.
Came back in '70 and got the same treatment, but as a bonus, was assigned to AFROTC at UCLA. Endured three more years of that crap. Got to watch the ¿great? Bill Walton actively help a mob attack the admin building and turnover/torch a campus PD vehicle, across the street from our building.
Never thought there was anything to forgive or forget. Just pitied the poor morons of that generation, who when you look at our nation today, haven't made much of their collective lives.
// Today's media fawning over the military, and especially veterans, often seems contrived and overdone, to me.
I was in the Colorado Springs airport not long ago and was overjoyed to see the exuberant, positive reception of troops coming home from deployment. This contrasts to what I witnessed in the late 60's when seeing off an Air Cav pilot at the airport. I watched him stoically not respond to jeers and sneers and, even worse for both of us, vulgar catcalls when we embraced and kissed for what would be the last time (he was KIA resupplying a unit pinned down on the Cambodian border in 1970, awarded the DFC, posthumously, and buried at Arlington where he is finally awarded the respect he deserved at the damned airport). I have never felt such rage in my life at that airport on that day.
I served '76-'80. Volunteer military. Nobody shooting at us, or vice-versa. Vietnam was in the past. But I will never forget how we were treated as second (maybe third) class citizens by My Fellow Americans. Many openly loathed us.
Oh well. That was a long time ago.
It is up to those of us who felt that loathing to make certain it does not happen to the young men and women who serve now.
My deepest and sincerest thanks to those of you, like Mr. Francis, who risked their lives serving. I experienced nothing more dangerous than training and brawls with the Brits.
I returned in Mar 68 soon after the Tet Offensive. I came home proud of my 18 months and elated that we had just won the war. Never have I been so naive. The hatred and venom I encountered was intense. The rejection by my former "friends" was worse. And LBJ let me know that our victory was not. In fact he did his best to make that 1968 military victory a loss. I tried college, but that was pure frustration. Fourteen months after my RVN DEROS(return from Vietnam) I returned to my comfort zone. I re-uped in the US Army. Two years later I was medically retired after a serious training accident while serving in Special Forces.
Time and age have not totally mellowed my disappointment and anger. My greatest anger now is at the phony vets and at the many successful politicians who were draft dodgers during Nam. Luckily, I have found numerous enjoyable interests to focus my attention on and some wonderful people to enjoy the companionship of. They are all proud of the service of Vietnam vets even though they were not of that age or they are fellow vets of all ages.
Great letters. Don't let Knucklehead schityu he was in no danger --other times talking about the cold war, he mentioned being on the Checkpoint Charlie line nose to nose with the Sovs and East Germans. Late 70s? If those guys had come across so solly for the Allied front line, a Bastogne scenario (stop them somewhere a day or so behind the initial impetus) was policy by then.
My father fought in N Africa and Italy in "the war", and lived outside or in caves for 18 months at that time. He suffered from depression, about which he was deeply ashamed, for the rest of his life for calling in an air strike, correctly, but one in which the pilot used the wrong coordinates and hit the wrong target. One uncle was in the hospital for two years after the Battle of the Bulge, and another, after being shot down, was a POW in a stalag luft where he ate, among other things, bark, to survive. Part of the job description requirements I wrote for a spouse included MILITARY SERVICE. I would have found it hard to respect an able bodied man who did not "go" or who hid behind deferments for graduate programs for which there was no motivation but fear. Found a good one who served from '63 to '65. He had some traumatic times and came home to find the wife he had married right out of college had left him. A huge price to pay. I met him seven years later, and we have a good life. I respect him tremendously.
In 1967 we had just moved to a new town and I had a new best friend. I was 7, she was 8. Her biggest brother was sort of a mystery to me, but he graduated high school and went off to someplace called Vietnam. I remember her mom watching the news every night. My friend and I got to listen to his records and hang out in his room, away from our pesky little brothers while he was gone. Fast forward to 2003 when I sent the first of two sons to MCRD San Diego. At that point I began to realize just what my friend's mom had given, what her son had given, so I could be free to play Barbies and listen to records in safety. In 2005 when he left for Iraq and combat in Najaf, I realized that all wars have been fought by "kids", who've grown up fast and stood in the gap for all the rest of us. I can never express my thanks for what you did and my deep grief at the shameful way you were treated when you came home. I'm so sorry.
My thanks to all who've served. This generation of troops seems to be getting the respect they deserve, but I already see signs of society wanting to turn them into "victims" of the "war machine". The longer it's been since I was in, the more I realize what a privilege it was to share the company of such good men.
I guess it runs in the family, as my Dad served 7 years in the Corp and 5 in the Army. My daughter did 8 years in USNavy and is married to an Army S/Sgt.
Rob Jones 11Bravo AlphaCo,4th/47th,9thInfDiv USARMY RVN Class of '68
If the letters in this thread don't lift you up about Americans, you have no heart.
Rob J ... To begin with, thank you most fervently for your service. protecting those citizens at home, who are too young, too old, and too fragile to fight back physically as we would love to do. Those of us from flyover country have done what we could to send you some comforts to help you through the loneliness and discomforts of your time in service.
As you come home, I hope that your efforts to find useful work are crowned with success. Back in the late 1940s and then after our shameful retreat from Vietnam when the war was already won on the ground, ordinary citizens tried to help returning veterans find useful civilian work again. I remember when I was in college in the late '40s, many of my parents' friends formed an informal organization to help returning soldiers find civilian jobs.
In Milwaukee, where I lived, executives of big companies like Allis-Chalmers, Allen-Bradley Harnischfeger, etc. would go in early to work so they could talk to one or two returning veterans before the ordinary work of the day began. Many of these executives had an informal "intelligence" setup because of serving on Boards of Directors, and the bright, promising young vets would be passed on through the network to find entry level and medium level jobs at manufacturing companies and even financial organizations.
When I ws home on summer vacation, Dad would let me have the car for the day if I would drive him into the Bank where is was Exec. Vice President at 8 AM, two hours before the bank opened, so he could get in a couple of interviews with veterans, and some networking among his opposite numbers from the Boards of Directors of these companies mentioned above.
It wasn't Manpower Inc, which hadn't been founded yet, but it was pretty efficient.
Marianne- thanks for the good wishes, but alas, I'm in the same age group as Bruce, Tom, BillH and some of the other ancient guys. My daughter had trouble finding work when discharged (could've easily gotten on with Boeing, didn't want to climb around inside airframes anymore) but I hope that when my son-in-law finishes his Army career he'll be able to obtain gainful employment. I think he's the kind who'll be able to support his family one way or another.
Myself, I've only had two jobs since I got out in '69, one that lasted almost fourteen years and the other one's passed the twenty-seven year mark and still goin'.
Bless your Dad for takin' care of the vets, and bless you for thinking of the current crop.