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Return to Vietnam

A veteran, his daughter, their journey

Vietnam veterans give thanks for survival, peace

November
22

The story I wrote about the thankful orphanages in Vietnam ran in today’s Journal News; click here to read it.

We got a Thanksgiving e-mail from “Doc” Bernie Duff this morning (afternoon in Vietnam), sharing what he is thankful for on this holiday: his girlfriend, his family, his “garbage pail kids,” the people of Vietnam, the veterans and his friends.

My father and I will celebrate Thanksgiving at West Point with our family today, dining among other veterans and their guests. We’re both thankful for our “Return to Vietnam,” and that the country has been at peace for the last three decades. And, we have a renewed appreciation for his first return from Vietnam, too. There were many close calls during the Vietnam War, and almost all the veterans on our trip still think about people who died in their place – sometimes literally, by saving their lives, or when positions or schedules were randomly switched by a commanding officer.

For my father, the hours we spent at Ton Son Nhat airport waiting for our flight back on Saturday night reminded him to be thankful that he made it out the first time; he had taken this photograph while waiting to fly home on March 1968, showing the gaping hole in the old terminal’s ceiling created by a Katyusha rocket that had recently killed some other soldiers – just as they were about to leave Vietnam.

tsnhole.jpg

Dr. Ronald Hanover, a psychologist specializing in PTSD at Manhattan’s VA Hospital, says many of his patients don’t fly, because it brings up the panic they felt when boarding their “Freedom Bird” from Vietnam all those years ago, fearful that it would get attacked just as they were finally heading “back to the world.

tsnthen.jpg

Fortunately, my father doesn’t mind flying, though now I understand that it’s a justifiable feeling. He did urge me to take this photograph on Saturday, however, showing him beneath an intact ceiling this time.

tsnnow.jpg

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 22nd, 2007 at 9:00 am by Nicole Neroulias. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Vietnam veterans, Vietnam veterans

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About this blog
"Return to Vietnam" chronicles the journey of Col. Andonios Neroulias USA (Ret.) of Briarcliff Manor, NY, joined by his daughter, staff writer Nicole Neroulias, to the country he fought in 40 years ago. They are traveling with Vietnam veterans and Rotarians from Rockland County and other parts of the country. Check this blog for daily posts, photos, recordings and slideshows about their experiences.
About the authors
Nicole and Andonios Neroulias

Nicole Neroulias grew up in Briarcliff Manor, NY, and graduated from Cornell University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has covered religion and city news in Cyprus, Connecticut and California, where she earned several fellowships and prizes, including a national Religion Newswriters Association award. She joined The Journal News in early 2007 and also teaches journalism at Columbia.

Col. Andonios Neroulias emigrated from Greece in 1956 and was commissioned an officer through the ROTC program of the City College of NY. From 1967-68, he served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry (Tropic Lightning) Division, whose main base was in Cu Chi, known for its intricate Viet Cong tunnels. Among his military awards are the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He is retired from the U.S. Army Reserve and lives in Briarcliff Manor, NY.
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