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2016 Reunion Speech
June 16, 2016
“We’ve Come A Long Way”
This year we recognize and salute the 40th anniversary of the ending of
the Vietnam War. So many of us still feel the horrible effects of our
service. Many of us have struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Some of us fight illnesses brought on by our exposure to Agent Orange and other chemicals sprayed during the war. We spent days and nights walking through freshly sprayed jungles like the hobo woods and the iron triangle. We did not get the respect we deserved when we returned home from the war. Our reunions in part have allowed us to feel pride in our military service and in our country.
During the period 1964 until 1975 over 2.59 million American Servicemen and women served their country in the Vietnam War. $58,202 made the ultimate sacrifice. Among the starkest revelations of our service is that Americas best and brightest served in Vietnam. The men who went to Vietnam had the highest rate of volunteerism, were the best educated, and served with courage and high honors.
The fact that we returned home to an ungrateful nation is a travesty. That we were not “victims” but instead raised our families and became America’s community and business leaders is an amazing testimonial.
Many members of Congress are Vietnam Vets. Ceo’s of large corporations as well as thousands of small business owners earned the Combat Infantry Badge. 2million seven hundred and nine thousand nine hundred and eighteen vets served and only 800,000 Vietnam vets are alive today. Those of us in this room are among the last 1/3 of Vietnam veterans.
Like veterans of all wars we lived closer to death than most people like to think about. We feared we would die or we feared we would kill. We simply feared and often still do. We wished we had not been so all alone. Some of us went to Vietnam with units, most of us were civilians one day jerked up and out of “the world”, shaved, barked at, insulted, humiliated, our egos destroyed, and then we were taught to kill, fix radios, drive trucks and all kinds of other things. We went. put in our time and were unceremoniously plucked out of the madness, either whole or wounded and placed back into “the real world”. We had trouble adjusting. Our loved ones seemed distant. Our friends wanted to know if we killed anybody. Life went on and we continued to remember our “Vietnam experience”.
We find ourselves today facing the fact that we are mortal beings. Our buddies are passing away leaving us to question our own lives. We hope we have lived a good life. We wonder if we will leave our families a legacy to be proud of. We hope we have been good men.
YES, WE HAVE COME ALONG WAY!
Let’s see just how far we have come.