A Vietnam Vet from Texas

Three different Vietnam veterans told me their stories over the past two weeks. All three of them shared a wistful sadness. Proud of their service, but with a lingering melancholy about their time in the military.

The first vet walked up to me and another prior-linguist LT. We were talking outside an office building. He had a large Longhorn logo on his button-down shirt. Just wanted to thank you guys for your service. I’s a Soldier. In Vietnam. And he shook my hand with a hell of a grip.

He almost walked off without chatting with us, but I thanked him. And told him: I tell you, Texas certainly treated us well when we returned dog tired from the Middle East. It was amazing, a line of 100 people greeting us as we walked off the plane.

(Even now, typing this, I remember it vividly. Folks of every color: white, hispanic, black, asian, and a long line of them. I had to excuse myself to duck into the bathroom to get my game face on. It is a challenging emotion to describe and I am not particularly emotional. I had been working twenty hour days, here and there. And finally it felt like I could breathe. In Texas, of all places. . .)

Sir, I continued, that is what you all should have received. It is a crime the way this country treated you all.

Sign of the times, he replied. I got blood thrown on me and spit at. Before they finally changed the airport from San Francisco to some other place.

Ach, sorry. Where were you stationed?

At the SAC base. (Of which, I forgot what he told me. Long Duc, or something like that.)

My first night there- I asked where the latrine was and was pointed in a dark direction. I headed out that way and heard gunfire not far from where I stood. It was something else. But listen here- me and my fellow vets promised, we were never again going to let our young guys get treated like how we were treated. I don’t know if we ever even talked about it. It was unsaid.

Well, thank you Sir, I replied. And shook his hand again. You all are heroes. 

More to follow on the other two vets. . .

23 thoughts on “A Vietnam Vet from Texas”

  1. I just spent a week with some awesome vets who are humble in what they did and pissed as hell because our 74 aren’t on The Wall. A couple of my pals went to brown water service and none of our men talked about our service. I was in college with long hair when I got out and I told no one I was a vet.

  2. God bless them all!

    I can recall the first time that the Vietnam vets were invited to march in the ANZAC parade here in Brisbane, Australia. It was 1988 – and all of us in crowd cheered and clapped thunderously as they marched on by. Not a dry eye to be a seen – in the crowd or the marchers.


  3. I always was curious as to why Americans always thought we had lost in Vietnam…we didn’t and actually won militarily…but the media and the perception was what prevailed rather than the reality and it has always been a sad commentary ….when politicians get involved with their own ideological brand, the military always loses…especially if they are liberal-progressive types…and we see now how much our military suffers and American civilians too when this crowd predominates….they really don’t care who dies in service to their worthless causes…(F&F and the Middle Eastern conflicts); we’re actually losing now thanks to these jackasses…I know you prefer not to talk about such things, Navy One, but there are a few of us who are well past the time for the convoluted meanderings of what the military has to endure today…..k

    1. K you are correct just want to add my two cents.
      If we “lost” the war it was because of the main stream media and in particular the head muck a muck of the msm Walter Cronkite “the most trusted man in America” and his lying political opinions telling the Country on the nightly news that we had lost the Tet offensive and in effect the war. This was the start of the liberal bias in the msm that continues today.
      And the likes of the current senior Senator from Massachusetts Kerry (D). Lying to Congress about the troops in VN. He repeated these lies about the troops in Iraq.
      Back in the day there was only ABC-NBC-CBS and the New York Times for the news. No internet, blogs, FOX news or talk radio to tell the other side of the story, or as some say the TRUTH.

      1. If we lost Vietnam it was because congress cut funding to South Vietnam after the US had left. We left them to fight for themselves and then denied bullets we had promised.

      2. Just a ‘dirty little secret’ Navy Davy, I’m a Vietnam-era veteran myself…I didn’t understand the contempt that was showered on honorable people who served back then….we should be ashamed to have ever thought our military (and I saw John Kerry, Democrat Senator from Massachusetts and his abominable performance way back then too) was as contemptible as he was…they weren’t but John F’ing Kerry was both a fraud and liar…k

  4. I’ve been to a couple of Ia Drang Valley veteran’s reunions with my uncle. When the older vets see young soldiers, it is hard to tell who is more excited to see whom. It is definitely a band of brothers – I can watch in awe, but not really be a part of it.

  5. I did two tours in I Corps – came home three times. Once was the day the ’68 Demo Conv started. The Liberal view on military service can be summed up with Oscar Wilde’s observation – “Oh, duty is what one expects from others, it is not what one does oneself.” My VFW Post welcomes home every veteran we know about with a flag lined entrance to our post and a motorcycle & police escort home. “Never again” – on so many different levels. Semper Fidelis.

  6. As a VietNam veteran myself, it is our mission to welcome home those that serve.

    When one VietNam vet meets another the usual greeting is “welcome home”.

    I was a REMF, (98B20, Cryptanalytic Specialist with the 8thRRFS (ASA)) myself and didn’t see much combat but, did get spat upon at S.F. International in Jan, 1971.

    Welcome home all.

  7. Those who know me well, know that I served … but I rarely mention when or where. It’s still hard to talk about it, and easier to just leave it unsaid.

    Struggled for years to understand why the country felt so different from when I first shipped out, and finally gave up trying to figure it out.

  8. In Feb of 70, I returned home from RVN and went straight to college, who were you supposed to talk to and who in the hell was going to understand! Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend my sons ranger class graduation at Fort Benning, that evening they had a small party celebrating their accomplishment, as I stood listening to these impressive young men so totally motivated and intelligent, for the first time in 40 years I could listen and enjoy the conversation about their deployments and not have to listen to someone tell me they didn’t have to serve because their draft number was high……….I finally felt at home and comfortable with who I was.

  9. CP: That is criminal! Your brothers should be up there!
    Old NFO: I know, it is just like we discussed.
    Pax: That makes me very happy. They deserve every second of it.
    Kris and NavyDavy: It is sad that the “media” in this country sold out our guys.
    Lou: That would be fun to go to. . .
    Struan: Our country owes you and your guys a big thank you. Thanks.
    John: I am REMF too, although have done a lot of Recon flights. Thanks for your service.
    Rev: I think the world of our Sailors who served during that tumultuous time. Thanks goes to you too.
    Bartdp: I am glad you had this opportunity. I know exactly what it is you speak of.

    1. A crisp USMC Hand Salute! to you, NavyOne. (Takes me back – “Yokahama Mama this is Rice Paddy Daddy.” -:)

  10. I came home in ’68 two months after the TET Offensive. Proud because I thought we had just won the war. The “welcome” was unpleasant and in a matter of hours I found out LBJ and the media gave our victory away. At best I was treated with indifference by my former running buddies and with derision and contempt by my peer group. Even a few WWII vets turned the knife more by calling Vietnam a “pussy non-war”. After a year I went back in the Army and divorced myself from society for years.

    Now I am so proud of my fellow VN vets who have not allowed a repeat unwelcome home for our younger brothers and sisters. Rolling Thunder and the Patriot Guard Riders were formed by VN vets and the American flag is proudly displayed by these vets. The Vietnam Wall was conceived and built by VN vets. We honored our own when America wouldn’t.

    Never Again!

    Welcome Home Brothers and Sisters!

    1. Welcome home, Tom, and thank you for serving.

      I’ve heard of WWII vets saying disparaging things about the war in Vietnam, but it was in an unexpected place. In the 70s, Studs Terkel collected the oral histories of many WWII vets in his book “The Good War”. In many of those interviews, the vets made offhand comments about how they were blessed with a moral certainty that they were on the right side of history, “unlike that God-awful mess in Vietnam” in which their sons were currently serving. Not remembering the era myself, I was shocked at the attitude.

      I’ve tried to find a book that collects the stories of men on the ground in Vietnam that tells an honest account of what it was like. I’ve not yet found one that didn’t try to push a radical left agenda (“‘Nam” coming to mind immediately, since largely discredited).

      Please tell your stories – good and bad – to someone who will collect and disseminate them. Encourage the other vets you know to do the same.

      Help me understand how my country got so far off the rails in the 60s and 70s.

  11. I myself am a Marine vet (85-89) Never looked at my service as anything special. It was during peacetime and honestly we usually had a pretty good time. I enlisted to honor the service of my Uncle who served as a Marine in Vietnam and experienced first hand the horrors of that war. Like many of his fellow service members he came home to a hostile and abusive public. But what he didn’t expect was the hostility he received from his own siblings. People he thought that no matter what would be there for him. He was completely crushed by it. He basically detached himself from the family and was very rarely seen. He went on to live a good life though he had to battle Agent Orange related cancer as well as emotional issues over the decades. Flash forward to last March. My younger brother Mike was returning from a combat tour in Afghanistan and myself being a member of a Marine motorcycle club, arranged quite a welcome home surprise for him. We met him at Ohare airport and my club escorted him to a parking lot just outside of the airport to a waiting crowd of people that wanted to show him their gratitude for his service. He wanted me to stand with him while people, most of whom were complete strangers, filed by shaking his hand, hugging him, and thanking him. I remember one Vietnam Vet handing my Brother a medal he had been awarded during his war. That was quite moment to behold but not not the most profound for a few minutes later I shaking the hand of a fellow biker and was telling him thank you for supporting my Brother when he said with a deep Chicago accent “What, you don’t recognize your own uncle?!?” I looked up (he’s tall, I’m not) and there was my hero, Uncle Johnny! I’ve probably only seen him 10 or so times in my life (I’m 46) but there he was. He was part of another organization that welcomed home returning troops. I looked him in the eye with tears in mine and said “you know Uncle Johnny you deserve this just as much as Mike”. I saw a pain in his eyes that not to many people ever got to see. He had a reputation for being a stone cold hardass. But I could also see that this whole thing that we did as bikers was part of his healing process. All he could say was “Ya…….ya” I hugged my uncle and told him “welcome home”. He had just started participating in similar events the previous year only because up until then he couldn’t even be around anything military related. But he felt obligated to protect the current generation from the what he experienced upon his return from Vietnam.

    Two war Vets were honored that day and it was one of the best days of my life to be part of it. To shake both my Brother’s and my Uncle’s hand and say “welcome home” filled me with a feeling that is beyond my ability to describe.

    And it’s because of the Vietnam Vet that there are organizations like mine and others that focus solely on supporting the current generation of Heroes. Just another reason to say thank you to those boys!

    Lethernecks MC

  12. Every summer I take my family from Ohio to Chelmsford MA to visit friends for July 4th, the Johnny Carson 2 mile run (named after a runner) and the parade. When the Vietnam Vets pass in review everyone on the parade route stands and cheers. In 2011, a group of former ARVN troops marched in the parade flying “their flag” and the US flag. They followed the Vietnam Vets. It was uplifting to see everyone cheer for the ARVN troopers and I believe it was impressed upon all that here were men marching for a country that no longer exists. Lesson learned.

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  14. Jim: A hostile public is a terrible thing to face. Thank you for your work in helping our new vets receive a welcome home. I can tell you, being on the other end of such a reception is a thing to behold. You and your group out there in Illini-land are great Americans.
    John: Wow, the ARVN and our guys? I did not know they did such such a thing. That sounds like fun. . .

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