Memorial Day has been important to me ever since I served in the United States Air Force from 1971 to 1975. I was discharged less than one month before the fall a Saigon. I had just completed my military career (such as it was) in South East Asia. I was discharged, flew to Tucson, Arizona and watched in horror as Saigon fell.
I spent two and a half years briefing and debriefing pilots flying over the Ho Chi Min Trails. I targeted the Ho Chi Min trails. I maintained secret libraries for the intelligence dept.
I knew in my heart we were not winning this war. That was hard to swallow. After my first year in Thailand, I’d told my father, “We have no business being in Viet Nam.” My father looked at me and said, “I trust President Nixon. How can you question our leaders? ” I knew our conversation had hit a point of no return. I shut my mouth and swallowed my pride. I left the next day for another stint in Viet Nam.
During my second tour of duty in South East Asia, Watergate exploded in the media, Spiro Agnew resigned. Gerald Ford became Vice president. Richard (I am not a crook) Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford became our first non-elected president. Meanwhile the body count continued to rise as more and more American GI’s died in Viet Nam. Both American and Viet Nam citizens died in alarming numbers. Part of my job was to keep count.
I returned to my parent’s home after my second year in South East Asia. My father, pulled me aside and said, “Son, I owe you an apology.” “Why???? “ I asked. He said, “I’ve always trusted our elected leaders to do the right thing. This Nixon shit has destroyed my trust in our country. I’m sorry I was so hard on you.” I was shocked! I know how difficult it is for my father to admit to being wrong but not for this reason! I also “got” the importance of his realization. I told him that Nixon’s resignation, Watergate, the investigations, etc. renewed MY faith in our elected leaders. We became stronger, as a country, for owning up to our mistakes and doing what is needed to rectify the problem. This was democracy at its best.
And then I returned to South East Asia for a third tour.
I was discharged from active duty on February 15, 1975, one month before the fall of Saigon. I settled in Tucson, Arizona and never mentioned to anyone that I was a Viet Nam Vet. It was more than 30 years before I would volunteer this information. I didn't fully appreciate my father's apology all those years. My father apologized for chastising me I yet I stayed in the closet as a Viet Nam Vet. No more.
Thirty five years after my discharge, I am PROUD to say that I am a Viet Nam Vet. I served my country in an unpopular war. I came home healthy. I knew many men and women who did not
I knew many men and women who served in Viet Nam. Many of them lost their lives. I know many of the names on the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington DC. I’ve been to the memorial several times and the memorial haunts me still. Powerful
Yesterday was Memorial Day, a day to remember and honor those who gave their lives in service to our country. It’s a day for me to remember my high school and college friends who are eternally young; who never had the opportunity to “be all they could be.” AND they were, indeed, all they could be.
These are my heroes.