Veterans Day is a day of emotions for me. Part wants to remember, and part wants to forget.

When I was 18, I had no clue where Vietnam was. Never heard of it. None of my clothes had Made in Vietnam labels in them.

I had a vague recollection of the name Indochina from high school but would never dream that two years later I would not only know where it was but would be seeing it up close and personal.

And I also had no idea it would be the first politically correct war that would claim 57,000 of America's best.

The Captain’s Dead

After arrival at our permanent location we were standing there in our khaki uniforms, I’ve never felt heat like that. It was well over 110 degrees.

The First Sargent came out to give us our orientation and apologized that the captain of our unit should be doing this — but he was killed yesterday.

So, on my first day in Vietnam, my first duty was to go to that ambush site and clear it out.

The Supply Sergeant’s Dead

When we were on base, we had movies. The TV shows Cheyenne and Combat. The supply Sergeant and I used to play chess a lot and became good friends.

We usually watched the movies together and then have a game of chess. The next day was his last.

Being a “short timer” he was due to ship out in a few weeks so to pass the time he thought why not do a ride along on a supply convoy to Saigon? They were attacked, and he was killed.

I have not been able to bring myself to visit our local Vietnam wall because I don’t want to see his name there.

Making Friends

I didn’t have a lot of close friends in Vietnam knowing that any day they could be absent from your life… all life.

My closest friend was Vernon Massy who had the bunk next to me. Growing up in milk toast Southern Illinois I’d never spent much time around anyone black.

But we both played guitar, had similar sports interests, and got along well.

And since it was the 60s, he couldn’t talk to me outside the tent or eat with me. That was frowned upon at that time.

But to my credit I was the only white guy allowed in the daily basketball games.

Some Final Thoughts

There is a certain amount of guilt that all Vietnam era soldiers carry. Why is someone else’s name on the wall and not mine.

Was I just lucky? Never in the wrong place at the wrong time?

I remember the Vietnam War Protesters. Bring our troops home. They marched and marched for us.

But how did they treat us when we returned? The men and women they wanted home so badly.

If you do encounter a Vietnam Vet the proper response is the one we never received, “Welcome Home.”