Don McKee’s column on Memorial Day really struck a note with me.
In 1969 I was an infantry lieutenant colonel on my way to Vietnam. It was my first tour and, although worried about my first time in combat, I was proud to be serving my country in the way I was trained.
I performed for five months as senior adviser to the 5th Vietnamese Ranger Group. I advised a Vietnamese full colonel who had 25 years combat experience on me. We walked the rice paddies with his battalions and did our job of “finding, fixing, and eliminating” the enemy. I was then fortunate to command a Mechanized Infantry Battalion in the 25th Infantry Division.
Regardless of the political aspects of the war and the controversy raging in the States, I felt my job was to find the enemy, kill the most we were capable of and return the troops under my command safely to the States. I was reasonably successful and felt proud of my part in the “conflict.”
When I got on the bird to take me back to the States, I admit I was apprehensive as to the reception I would receive at the airport, and really steeled myself for a confrontation. It didn’t happen and I went on to my next assignment.
I completely understand the feeling of non-support from the home front, the frustration of trying to explain to doubting relatives why we were there and what we felt we had accomplished. The government gave me an area of responsibility in Vietnam, men with whom I fought my assigned part of the war, and a sense of accomplishment at the end.
Thank you for letting me vent after a long period of silence.
Col. John R. Parker (Ret.)