One of the greatest rewards of this Return to Vietnam project has been the opportunity to meet so many other veterans, particularly from the Lower Hudson Valley: Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties. My family has lived in Briarcliff for 20 years, but my father was always too busy commuting to Manhattan and volunteering with numerous Greek American organizations to do much with local Vietnam veteran groups. Also, as a grateful immigrant, an officer (as opposed to a draftee) and someone who had remained in the military, he felt he had a different perspective on the Vietnam War than the more vocal veterans out there.
But, now that he has retired and we’ve spent months exploring these issues, we’re finding plenty of other Vietnam veterans and family members, some within a 15-minute drive, who can relate. Thanks to this project and yesterday’s editorial in The Journal News, my father has discovered an entire community to share stories with – the funny ones as well as the traumas.
For example, Karen Petrellese of Yonkers wrote to us this week about how much her father – fellow 25th Infantry Division Vietnam veteran Gregory Kanych Sr. – and his friends have appreciated this project. The Army buddies were recently featured in a Veterans Day story in The Leader-Herald, as the subjects of a painting showing them reunited at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
We also heard from Johnny Blalock Sr. of Mount Vernon, asking for more information about our visit to the Black Virgin Mountain. A Sleepy Hollow High School graduate, he served with the 175th Aviation Company (“The Outlaws”) in the Mekong Delta, but was shot down by the mountain on Dec. 26, 1966.
Stay tuned this week for the story he requested.