Vietnam veterans give thanks for survival, peace
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.
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.”
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.