This man’s family has requested his name be withheld to avoid publicity. That is the way his whole life has been. This article has been written to honor his life and his brothers in arms.
He was drafted in 1964 into a war he didn’t like and didn’t want to fight in. He was a bright young man and had already read The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick. His politics didn’t coincide with the U.S. Diplomatic Core nor with President Johnson but he was a loyal American who reported to his draft board and tried to do all the things that kept him legal in 1964.
He went through a harrowing boot camp as he watched the media and a new Television station called CNN started by a young entrepreneur named Ted Turner. This new station was different than the network program he had grown to take as absolute truth in his younger years but all his fellow soldiers were watching it as were all the returning Corp men who had just been in Vietnam. These young soldiers knew the atrocities that were being perpetrated by the combined forces onto Vietnam, especially the bombing of whole villages killing enemy and ally alike.
He trained daily in martial arts thinking of the time he might have to actually kill someone with his own hands. He became an expert in marksmanship. He went through every program they had for him. They were training his mind as well as his body. They wanted him to think like a soldier and go out each day looking for another battle.
This young soldier was told that if he went to the Green Beret division to train for air combat, he could defer shipping out until completion, so he learned to jump from planes and was trained in parachute jumping. Recognizing his intelligence, they then offered cockpit flight training but he didn’t do so well at that so they trained him as a tail gunner. After all this training, he was ready for Vietnam. He shipped out.
Vietnam was a surprise to him, even though he had been watching the news reels. The climate was hot and muggy and fungus would grow on the body. He had to change his socks several times during the day to keep them dry. The hell of Vietnam could only be experienced, not read about.
All too soon, he was flying missions on a helicopter. His position of tail gunner was a very dangerous one and he was told that the average life expectancy for his job was eight minutes. He stayed alert and became one of the best weapons the Americans had against the Viet Cong. He also became the number one target of the Cong. He flew one mission after the other, dreaming every night of the lives he had taken the previous day. He was amazed at how long he had escaped danger.
His luck was soon to run out. The helicopter was caught in a furious fight with the Cong shooting missiles instead of the guns they normally use. These weapons were supplied by China to give the Congress an advantage over the helicopters. His aircraft was shot down
and part of it landed on our hero. He was dragged into a P.O.W. Camp, because he couldn’t walk. This is where he spent the rest of the war.
When the war was finally over, our hero who was now a victim arrived in a V.A. Hospital. His legs had been so badly damaged that they had to be removed. When he finally left the hospital, it was in a wheelchair where he would spend the rest of his life.
There were no marching bands for this soldier. In fact, America seemed ashamed of everything that reminded them of that dirty little war. Veterans were spat on. It seemed that America was trying to sweep the memory of Vietnam under the rug.
Even now, he was a hero, he did everything for himself. He got himself an apartment. He found an office job in a munitions factory. He had Timothy J. Ryan & Associates help him get his car set up so he could drive it with his hands. He even had the car made so he could put his chair in the back himself. He never felt sorry for himself and he gave amply to the Vietnam Veterans Association. By any account this man was what all Americans should try to be. He was an unassuming patriot!
Last Thursday, he was hit by a hit and run driver as he was trying to cross a street in his wheelchair. He was dead on arrival at the hospital.
Notice your Vietnam Veteran. He did not want to go but he had to!