I’ve written before about the week in which three Vietnam vets approached me to tell me their story. It was uncanny in that in all of them, I just listened. I asked very few questions, but spent hours nodding my head and saying a word or two. (Of course, the second one was on an airplane and planes make for good confessional booths.)
The last Vietnam tale is short and Air Force related. I have a small team of guys, all civilian, who work for the Navy program I oversee. All of them are older than me, make more money than I do, and are more educated than I am. But the nature of this sort of work requires a uniform and that is where I come in.
Most of my guys are former military, including an Air Force Sergeant who fueled planes in Vietnam. He told me of stories of lying in sweat night after night over there. And of re-fueling planes during the day when they came in. He was proud of his work, as he should be, and never complained about the conditions. For years, he wore a POW bracelet of an Air Force pilot who was shot down over Vietnam. I’ll leave his name anonymous, the reasons which will soon become apparent.
Years later, in the late 90s, the Air Force Sergeant used a primitive search engine and actually found the guy whose name was on his bracelet. The POW had returned to the United States after years over in Vietnam. And the Sergeant asked the former-POW if he wanted the bracelet back. (Apparently, this is the tradition? If so, first heard for me.)
Anyway, the Air Force flier told him to keep it. Not in a mean way. But the pilot proceeded to share a list of gripes about the US government and their actions concerning his captivity. He even got a dig in on Jane Fonda. The former-POW felt like more could have been done from the governmental end. And he did not want the bracelet as a reminder. A good American, may God bless him. . .