My friend, Joe Campolo, Jr. wrote and published this article on his website back in 2016, and I believe his story could be any of our own…simply substitute your name, town, and year. Joe is an award-winning author of three Vietnam War books, a poet and public speaker. A Vietnam War Veteran, Joe writes and speaks about the war, and is a Veteran’s advocate. He and his family reside in Wisconsin where he enjoys fishing, traveling, writing and spending time with his family. His website link is at the end of this article.
Introduction by JoAnn Forrester
Vietnam, the war of the Baby Boomer generation has left a multitude of raw scars on our national conscience. A war, where 9.2 million American men and women served throughout the world during an eleven year period (Jan. 1, 1965 – March 28, 1973), as warriors and peacekeepers. Of that number, 2,709, 918 Americans, or about 3.5 percent of the boomer generation served in Vietnam, leaving 58,228 killed, 304,705 wounded and 2,400 listed as missing at the end of the war.
For those who came home from the war…it really never ended. There were no parades, no thank you’s, no you did a great job…for most there was rejection, blame, and hostility. Coming home and adjusting to an uncivil world took its toll on our men, women and their families. Many problems resulting from PTSD were ignored and or denied by the Veteran Administration and US government thus creating more hardships resulting in early deaths, suicide, disabilities, and alienation.
Slowly we have begun to deal with our past and try to soothe the wounds. Each man and woman who served has a story to be told and to listen to.
Below is the story of Joe Campolo, Jr.
My Experience upon my return from Vietnam
I enlisted and served in the United States Air Force from 1968-1972. I served in the Vietnam War from January of 1970 to January of 1971. In Vietnam, I was assigned to the Phu Cat Airbase in the province of Binh Dinh in what was designated as the II corps military region.
Assigned to base supply, my duties included the warehousing of material on the base and, on occasion, the transport of materials, by motor vehicle, to other military facilities in the general area. I also flew missions, humping cargo on C-130 and C-47 aircraft for a short time.
During my time there, Phu Cat was the home of the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing. The mission of the 12th was primarily combat support in the Central Highlands, the area surrounding the base. The primary aircraft for this mission was the F-4 Phantom Fighter Bomber. The base was also home to AC-47 and AC-130 gunships, Huey helicopters, and several different types of cargo aircraft.
My duty at Phu Cat though laborious and exhausting at times was much easier and safer than the duty experienced by U.S. Army and Marine grunts out in the bush. I highly respected the men who handled that treacherous duty. I was also in awe of the pilots who flew long and dangerous missions throughout their tours of duty.
The Phu Cat airbase was not safe either, however, as it was subjected to Vietcong Mortar and Rocket barrages every two or three weeks. These attacks would often wound and occasionally kill people on the base. I witnessed the death of a friend during one of these attacks and lost the hearing in my right ear. Material transports taking us off base in one or two vehicle convoys were significantly more dangerous, with several of these trips encountering hostilities.
The Ride Back Home
When my tour of duty was finally over I flew out of Vietnam the same way I flew in. On a U.S. military Flying Tiger DC Stretch Eight at Cam Rhan Bay, Vietnam. Leaving Vietnam was by far the happiest event of my life up until that point. The flight, full of Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and a few Sailors fairly erupted with hysteria upon departure. We held our breaths until the plane left Vietnam’s airspace as we were fearful of a last minute attack from a Vietcong surface to air weapon. As the plane soared, we were suddenly free; and we celebrated. The long flight felt endless as the plane had to stop in Japan and Alaska to refuel before landing at McCord Air Force Base in Seattle, Washington.
As the plane finally landed in the continental United States we once again erupted in hysteria. When the passenger doors opened and we walked down the stairways to the tarmac, we were absolutely jubilant. Most cheered, many cried and some got down and kissed the ground at their feet.
The Airport… Joy and Despair
Ushered into a large hangar, an Air Force officer gave us a short briefing. In his briefing, he encouraged us to change from our military uniforms to civilian clothes. Most of us ignored him; many did not even have a set of civilian clothes with them to change in. We were then taken for a short bus ride to Seattle International Airport where we would book a commercial flight for our journey home. At the airport, we walked briskly through a long entryway before going our separate ways to find the concourse our flight home required. Like the others, I was euphoric, however midway through the entryway, my condition of euphoria came to a sudden end by something that was striking me in the back. Looking around and behind us, we stood in dismay as civilians on each side of the entryway threw garbage at us.
Shocked beyond belief, we stood numb, not fully comprehending what was happening. We all realized the war was unpopular and none of us expected a marching band in our honor, but this was beyond belief. Some men yelled in shock and anger but sadly, most of us held our heads down and ran or walked hurriedly to escape the barrage. Instinctively many of us felt shame, regretting anything we may have done to incur such wrath from of our countrymen; some men cried.
After escaping the garbage barrage, many went into restrooms and changed clothing. Humiliated, most of us just went on to our passenger gates and sat with our heads down, waiting for our flights. The rest of my flight home was uneventful. My flight from Seattle to Chicago was on one of the brand new 747’s which had been just brought into service and was only filled to about half of capacity. I could not enjoy the experience, however, as I sat by myself, still in my military uniform in the middle row of group seats, as if on an island, surrounded by civilian passengers who did not feel comfortable enough to sit near me. What had previously been the happiest day of my life now became the worst day of my life.
In Chicago, I had a happy reunion with my family who came to pick me up at O’ Hare International Airport. The next few days were a bit awkward as my experiences in Vietnam had irreversibly changed whoever I was before I went over there, to a person who I myself did not even know.
Thankfully my close friends were also very welcoming and I reconnected with them gradually over the month I would be home, prior to leaving for my next duty station at March Air Force Base near Riverside, California. Some friends and acquaintances, however, had no idea what I had been doing for the past thirteen months. “Where ya been?” was a common reaction. Or the more discouraging types of response, “You were in Vietnam, huh? I heard of that place; looks like more snow on the way”.
VFW…The Bitter Welcome
Aside from the garbage barrage at the airport, the homecoming event which disturbs me the most to this very day is the reception at our local VFW. A close friend who had also just returned from Vietnam called me one day. He also had some discouraging experiences regarding his return and suggested we go to the VFW for some more understanding companionship. However, this was to be an extremely rude awakening. Upon our arrival at the VFW, patrons at the bar looked at us with what could only be described as disdain. Mostly World War II vets, with a few Korean vets among them, we were informed in no uncertain terms that Vietnam Vets were not welcome there. Some of them implied that Vietnam was not a “real war”, while others hinted because we were losing we hadn’t done our jobs. Rather than getting into a fight, we finished our beers and left in a state of anger; more humiliation. I felt particularly bad for my friend, who was wounded twice in Vietnam and had been awarded the Silver Star for gallantry. It was many years before I would set foot in another VFW.
After these initial experiences, my expectations about my return from the war diminished. Upon arriving at my next duty station at March Air Force Base I was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for my performance in the war, and was treated with respect by my fellow military personnel. Off base, however, the local hippie culture had little regard for my military exploits and was often vocal in voicing their disapproval. One week, while off duty, I hiked through the desert with some other GI’s from the base. We came upon an isolated hippie commune who had set up residency along a small stream. While some of the hippies welcomed us, some ignored us, however after a short time, what could only be described as a vigilante mob took after us with homemade spears and chased us until we were far away from the commune. It was another unforgettable and painful experience.
I quickly learned to keep a low profile regarding my military status when off duty and things went OK until my discharge. I went home to Wisconsin but with a poor economic climate and restlessness I moved back out to Southern California and looked for work. After a long and difficult search I did find a full-time job, however, during my job search, I discovered that my military service was a negative asset, not a positive one. The sour climate regarding the Vietnam War and the U.S. military had permeated all aspects of our society.
I stayed in Southern California for about another year, but with no formal skills and carrying an unfavorable military background, I could not maintain steady employment. After an earthquake damaged my place of employment I was laid off with no notice. Returning to Wisconsin, I moved in with my parents intending to move into a place of my own as soon as I was able. I again sought employment and again ran into businesses that were either ambivalent or opposed to hiring Vietnam veterans. (Some came right out and admitted this)
Eventually, I found a company about twenty-five miles from my home that would hire me. The owner was a very decent man who actually went out of his way to hire Vietnam veterans; understanding what they were going through. I started out in the factory and worked in an assembly area with about a dozen other young men. About seven of us had served in Vietnam, but you would hardly know it as we avoided the topic like the plague. On those occasions when we did speak about it, it was only to each other in hushed tones. We would look around furtively, fearing our conversation would be overheard and we would be subjected to more abuse or scrutiny.
College and other disappointments
I also started attending college at this time. I took advantage of the GI bill and went to school about three nights a week at the local university. Becoming smarter, I kept my military service to myself except for occasional discussions with other veterans, and as we did at work, we only spoke to each other during breaks about it; and quietly.
The American Legion at the time wasn’t any more welcoming to Vietnam Vets than the VFW, so there were few options for those who wanted to connect with other veterans. I joined one organization called VietNow, but found them to be a bit too radical for my taste and allowed my membership to lapse. My friend with the Silver Star and I stayed close and we would discuss the war on occasion.
A bad experience at the university ended my college career for a time. A young woman in one of my classes found out I was a Vietnam vet and started harassing me, directly and indirectly. The professor warned her about it but she kept it up and finally drummed me out of the class. No other students joined in these attacks, nor did they defend me.
The remainder of the seventies was a bleak time for me as, like many other Nam vets, I had no one to talk to regarding my experiences. The VA at the time was not receptive to us either, most of their programs having been groomed for aging WWII vets. (Korean vets fared better than us, but not much) As time passed and more unpleasant incidents occurred relating to my service in Vietnam, I, like many of my peers, started denying my military service. If it came up, I would dodge the issue; if a stranger or work-related individual asked, I would not admit to having served. I felt somewhat guilty about this; almost like a traitor. The fall of Saigon in 1975 was a particularly bad time as many of us silently experienced guilt and humiliation regarding the catastrophe. It was a shock, to later learn, that thousands of other Vietnam vets had been doing the same thing and having the same experiences I was.
Vietnam War Memorial…“The Wall”… The beginning of Healing
In 1982 the Vietnam War Memorial, now known as “The Wall” was unveiled in Washington D.C. Conceived by a Vietnam War veteran named Jan Scruggs, and largely funded by donations from Vietnam War Veterans, “The Wall” brought together thousands of Vietnam War veterans who had previously been isolated and drifting. The men, who had been dealing with the impact of the war and the negative homecoming on their own, now came together and formed bonds based upon their mutual experiences. Ronald Reagan, for one, championed the striking memorial and spoke at the dedication ceremony upon its opening.
Founding members of the KAVV; Pete on the far left, Nick on the far right. Roy and another KAVV member in betwen.
Soon other politicians, news media personnel, and other persons of note fell in line as well. The floodgates had now opened; after many years, Vietnam Veterans could come finally out of the shadows; they could leave their hiding places and come out into the open. They no longer had to wince, and cringe upon any mention of the Vietnam War. A nation who had previously shunned them, finally opened their arms to them. Movies were produced, more monuments were put up and parades were held. It was the dawn of a new era.
Proud members of the KAVV (Kenosha Area Vietnam Vets) and our 4th of July float several years ago; Bruce, Charlie, Joe and Dennis. (Bruce and Dennis; RIP)
A group of Vietnam Veterans in my hometown started meeting in a park. Because of our bitter experience with the local VFW and American Legion we shunned those two institutions like the plague. After a time, a local private institution allowed us the use of a small building where we gathered for many years after. We formally created an organization and named it “The Kenosha Area Vietnam Vets”, or KAVV. We developed by-laws, elected officers, and collected dues, much of which we donated to local civic organizations in need. Every year since forming we have had a float in our Fourth of July civic veteran’s parade. We win the Blue Ribbon almost every year. Our comradery is bonded in steel. At one of our meetings a delegation from the local VFW visited and made a formal apology for the treatment we had received there upon our return. Times had indeed changed.
Kenosha Area Vietnam Vets (KAVV); proud blue ribbon winners, Kenosha Civic Veterans parade, 2016
After the Gulf War in the early nineties and continuing on through the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars, our group makes a pointed effort to welcome all Veterans home; no matter what the circumstances. Our motto is “Never Again”.
Our membership is dwindling rapidly these days; Agent Orange, old war injuries, PTSD and age have taken a heavy toll on our close little group. We mourn each member who passes and pledge to keep them in our memory. These days are good days for veterans, and I wear my “Vietnam Vet” hat proudly. (I have even joined the VFW and American Legion) I still feel the sting of that garbage hitting my back in 1971, but have found therapy in my children, grandchildren and my writing. God Bless America.
Thank you, Joe for another great article. To read more works by Joe, please visit his website:
To continue reading about our homecoming after the Vietnam War, please click or bookmark the two links below for later reading. Both articles were posted during the last five years and were well received by readers of this website. The first, posted in 2013, is from my perspective. Here is the link:
The second is actually a paper by a college student, Mrs. Lisa Pett, married and a mother of four, who researched this phenomenon and asked VN Vet readers of this website about their homecoming; their commentary is included in the paper…it’s a great read and is sure to tug at your emotions. Here’s the direct link:
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Well written and so true. We didn’t have garbage thrown at SFO airport, just raw eggs. 85th EOD Kontum’68, 44th EOD Dau Tang ’69. Funny how experiences track so closely. I guess it is/was same for a lot of us…
I had a school deferment (Sheet Metal Apprentice-1 year in) when I enlisted. A high school buddy was flunking out of college and talked me into joining the Army (Military Police) him. My Dad (a Navy Vet from Pearl Harbor Attack) tried to talk me out of it, saying it was not a worthwhile,war to be in. He knew the handwriting on the wall. I went anyway. Basic at Ft. Bliss,TX, AIT at Ft. Gordon,GA and went to Nam 8 months later. After spending 2 weeks in Na Trang (218th MP Co) filling sandbags, I was sent to Tui Hoa for 3 months, back to Na Trang for in town patrol duty. Then was sent to Cam Rahn Bay (630th MP Co) and was put in the convoy escort platoon for about 4 weeks. I spent the rest of my time in Nam with a detachment at Dalat, quite a cushy assignment compared to other places. But while in country, I got to understand what my Dad was talking about. The ‘War Effort’ was putting a sour taste in my mouth, but I liked the comradery and made some really great friends. The military had an extended tour of duty program ( mostly propaganda for the ‘War Effort’, so instead returning home to probably do line duty in Colorado Springs (home was Colorado) , I opted for a 6 month extension to get an early out after coming home for 30 days. That’s when I got my first taste of ‘civilian reality’. Since drinking had become a way of life in Nam, a bar seemed like a good place to hang out. WRONG Seemed like all civilians wanted to do was kick my ass, so I found solitude with family and fishing and camping for the next 30 days (which I extended 2 more weeks). My Dad was really pissed when I told him I was going back and why I was doing it. I just wanted out. Anyway back to Can Rahn Bay (2 weeks late) for 6 months of line duty and detachments and courier runs. I came home Feb. 14, 1971 and out of the Army. Since I had already had 1 year of apprenticeship under my belt, I could finish the next 3 years under the GI Bill and have a job. A lot of my co-workers weren’t too receptive of me since I was a VN Vet, but I didn’t care because I was home and I had a job that I could make a good living at. But social life was still a challenge, but gradually made friends even though most of them were in a couple of friendly bars that I found and since I had become a ‘well seasoned’ drinker I was home. Unlike some guys that ‘ducked and ran’ I stood my ground, sometimes I won sometimes it came out a draw. I remember watching the fall of Saigon and seeing the final count of fatalities and wounded and started having survivor’s remorse. I tried to get in the VA Hospital system, but was told there was nothing wrong with me and that other vets were a lot worse off than me. So I talked to my family doctor and he said what I was feeling was very common place and helped me get through this ‘rough patch’ in my life. I took me about 20 years to come out of the alcoholic haze I was in. And am much better for the experiences and challenges I experienced. The one thing that helped me be proud to be a Vet was a trip to Branson, MO with my Dad and his family. Branson is a very Vet minded community. Standing up with my Dad and all of the other Vets that get recognized for their service during musical performances is something that turned me around about 10 years before the wall was built. The 630th MP Company VN has an annual reunion and it is good to belong to a great community of Veterans. Thank you for this website.
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Well stated Vern, glad you’re doing well.
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I served in the army at camp evans by hue from1970to1971 I like reading about come home from vietnam
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Another great post telling a story most of us experienced in some way or the other. On my return, I was held for debriefing and then released. We also got the lecture on wearing civilian clothes. Perhaps it was different for others, but as I recall, to get a military stand-by ticket, you had to be in uniform. I could have paid for my flight, but selected stand-by. I never had garbage thrown at me, but I did receive the hateful comments. I was a military brat growing up, yet when I left the Air Force, I wanted nothing to do with it. During the years that followed, I didn’t admit I served. I know I suffered from PTSD, but I didn’t acknowledge the nightmares and waking up in cold sweats. To do so was considered a weakness in my world. Up until recently, I wouldn’t apply for VA benefits (medical assistance, etc.). I now proudly walk into our VA hospital. As with many things in life, reading, and writing about our Vietnam experiences helps to heal those hidden scars. Thanks for keeping this blog alive. Welcome home Vets.
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I had my own experience with this crap. Someone asked me years ago via email about the winter soldier hearings.
I prefer to call this “how John Kerry affected me”
Below is my response to a fellow who asked me.
Sent: Sunday, August 20, 2006 8:28 AM
Subject: Question About WINTER SOLDIER Hearings…
I wasn’t with John Kerry (thankfully) so I can’t testify as to what he did do or did not do. I can tell you that where I was and the unit I was with did not commit any atrocities that I know of. Our daily schedule went something like this… Arise at 4 or 5 AM…if you arose in peace you had a chance to grab some c-rats, it you arose by being attacked ….forget about those c-rats….go like hell all day long….hump them boonies for days on end and never see another human being (thankfully) or if you did see another they were usually shooting at you. Again if it were a relatively non-combat day….eat some c-rats on top of the tank while doing a search and destroy. React to another unit who needs help…etc etc. Set up a night defensive position at dusk….now…even though we were an armored unit….if we were in war zones c or d or any other “bad” area, we’d actually dig in what we called “fighting positions” and to the grunt it was known as the good old fox hole. If we were lucky enough to not have to dig in, you’d have maybe 5 or 10 minutes before dark to write a note home. I used to use the box top of the c-rat box as a post card as a lot of times I did not have the luxury of stationery as it was on my last tank or apc which got blown away. So now it is dark, so you get to go out on an ambush patrol or a listening post. If you didn’t do that and stayed with the perimeter, then you got to pull guard duty for one or two hours. Whatever time was left over you got to sleep. That been said….now let me ask your son…..when did I have time to commit all these rapes and killings? My 2nd question to him is “where” were all these women that I was supposedly raping? I really can’t recall seeing too many women out in the jungle. We were pounding the bush most of the time. Sometimes we’d run a road at night to keep it from being mined…….again….where were all these women? Where were all the children that we supposedly killed?
Did John Kerry’s activities after he got out effect me? Definitely! I was literally harassed out of my first drafting job as my boss would ask me every morning “how did it feel to kill all those innocent women and children?” Back in 1971/2 they did not have “hostile work environment” rules! After about 4-1/2 months of this crap and nobody would even have a cup of coffee with me…the boss came up to me with his usual speel.. I told him “it felt absolutely great and you are next on my list…let’s go out into the parking lot and I will fix things right now!” Well he walked away with a big red face. A week later we had a factory shut down for inventory and I went looking for a job. The following Monday when I was to return to work….I did NOT, I called and said I’m not coming back. Did this affect me and my wife and my 2 year old son? Absolutely….they liked to eat like anyone else. I was lucky I still had my part time job from when I was going to school to be a draftsmen immediately before I got this crummy job.
After this….I was very selective as to who I told I was a vietnam veteran or not. It wasn’t until 1989 (20 years after I got out) that I “crawled out of the closet” and admitted to being a veteran.
I was treated like shit for 35 years at the Minneapolis VA as well.
In my humble opinion, Kerry and others like him did a lot of damage to a lot of innocent folks who already had enough bull shit to deal with in their lives. If anyone asked me about my fused knee on my left leg (it does not bend…that is from an RPG hit on my 3rd and last tank) I told them I got it in a car accident. I lost my left eye with a bb gun incident when I was a kid (that was from the first RPG that hit the tank) So now I was a liar as well ! After you tell one lie….eventually you have to tell another lie to cover up the first lie. It sucks to be a liar!
I was very mistreated and discriminated against a good part of my lifetime but I never bitched about it like all these minorities do. All these minorities and fringe groups have all these special privileges. In Minneapolis, they have a gay rights parade.. Tell me….when is the last time they had a combat veterans parade? How about NEVER!
I have a friend who is a Minnesota state trooper as well as being a Vietnam vet. He told me to get rid of my purple heart license plates (this was 1990 or there abouts). I asked why. He said I am a target as police will figure I am a drunk that just came out of a legion or VFW club. I got rid of the plates and sure as hell, I quit getting pulled over. What a good deal this is….right? So there are still people out there that hate veterans!
You can tell your son for me….I have 3 purple hearts and all of them are from schrapnel wounds from RPGs. I never shot, killed, raped, or mistreated any women or child. I did shoot and kill whoever was shooting at me or who ever had just killed some of my best friends.
I have a “memoir” of sorts that I wrote a long time ago and I do not wish to make it public. If you want your son to see it, email me back channel and give me your email address and I will email it to you. I can tell you that it sucks because it deals with being in a hospital after getting shot up as well. It is not really a “fun read” nor was it a “fun life”.
Cav (the other Bob)
OKay, back to today. BTW, the guy never contacted me again. I’m still waiting for the VA’s “final rating” on me. It’s only been 50 years and 5 months now since Aug 24, 1968.
I’ve since had Ischemic heart disease and had open heart surgury, 2 heart attacks and a high risk stent put in. I am starting to sell off my toys, guns, etc as I dont’ want my wife to get screwed. Don’t have long left now.
I was with Alpha Troop, 3rd Sqdn, 4th Cav (armored) 25th I.D. from Late Nov 67 to Aug 24, 68. Spent 1-1/3 year in army hospitals, got a fused left knee, blind in one eye, ears are shot, and I’ve been told I have a horseshit attitude. fugum!!
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Saigon fell on my 13th birthday 4/30/75. I was born in alabama while my father was a Huey mechanic at FT. Rucker alabama. a training base for new (huey-UH1s) helicopter pilots. “62-66” so being the kid with a father that had been in the army & had ties to the war i did my best to learn & understand the war as i grew-up! my father missed going to vietnam by being discharged from FT. Rucker in early “66” we moved back to the san francisco bay area (berkley,ca) so i saw some very scary things from the “counter culture” as i grew-up! & I vowed to understand what i saw as a kid when i became an Adult! & i kept that promise. I have heard many stories like this mans return home from vietnam & it has ALWAYS ENRAGED ME! However Mr campolos story almost made me cry! I have been & always will have a very Deep HATRED for the LEFT in this country! it’s just plain INSANITY to blame men for doing there DUTY by law to do what their country demands of them in a long lasting tradition that they had no say in the matter! attacking tham at the airport should of NEVER have been allowed! & i blame the same government that sent them in harms way in the first place to protect them from this humiliation to greet them as they set foot in this country! I now understand why many old vietnam vets are bitter assholes! (as i would be) the hypocrite of a country who finally decided to welcome them back home more then 20 years later in my opinion is FAR TOO LITTLE FAR TOO LATE! thank you vietnam vets some of us always loved and admired you for enduring both HELLS ! #1 Vietnam #2 coming home Alone
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Thank you for your thoughts Christopher. But…it wasn’t just the hippies. The treatment at the hands of WWII vets at the VFW and Legion hurt worse….they should have known better.
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After my return from Nam I was assigned to Ft Hood for the remainder of my enlistment.
I was able to take my LSAT (law school admission test) at the University of Texas. I was competing with 21 year olds getting ready to graduate. I had not seen the inside of a classroom for over 3 years. At that time there were 25 applicants for each seat in law schools. I applied to a law school that had a Dean of Admissions who was a retired Marine. He always saved 10 seats for Vietnam Veterans. I was accepted, graduated, passed the bar and practiced law for 35 years….until retired by Agent Orange.
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Great for passing your LSAT! Damned nasty about Agent Orange. I mean people who are real bad off due to that. Just so many tumors and what not…damn shame it is.
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Yes, I remember the treatment by the VFW. At the time, all were WWll vets and we of the Vietnam era “were not in a war” (a direct quote). I was told that medals were given out too easily and the inference was that they held no meaning. Went back one more time for a beer, sat at the bar and was totally ignored. I never went back until a few years ago. Mostly to have a parking place near a wooded area, that I run my dogs. This incident was the straw that broke the camels back. To this day I still won’t talk about the war, except to other vets.
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The article was great just the way it was when I got to St. Louis. First I landed in San Francisco a 20 year old vet. I feel bad how American people treated us.
But welcome home brother.
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Yea, many people seem to have had these experiences. I was in 66 to 68…May. Drafted and the Army was good to me I kept getting pulled out for different training. Ended up as an Air Traffic Controller. Just luck and the right scores. I had tried to go to Nam but finally I said why not do more schooling. As I said, just luck. But after our school all the controllers were being sent to Nam. Our class went to Germany. Another “whatever” moment. I ended up taking a European discharge and came back to the States over a year later on a student ship out of Le Havre. Got laid on the trip back for sure. Back in the States I got into the New School for Social Research. It had a lot of lefties and people would come into class after being “wounded” in demonstrations. That was their thing….I never was bothered by one person and I made sure I noted I was ex-military. Even used to wear a fatigue jacket Ended up with a Marine roommate who was in the same school. He had been doing intelligence work in the Gulf of Tonkin and could say nothing of what he did.
I always put down I was in the military on anything that could use it. But true, later on I mostly worked out sub-contracting different types of work. And still do.
I still defend out time in Nam was misunderstood and that the domino theory was true stuff as could be seen after the fall of Nam in Cambodia and Laos. I also later when living in Paris would go to the Musee Guimet that had a big history collection on the Vietnam area and learned what tough people we were fighting. They had had small empires there. Add to that the screwed up constraints on our troops and it was not a loss but simply a “reaction” that went kinda wrong. Kissinger was dishwater for me. Oh, they offered me 10,000 to re-up. You know what that coulda bought back then. I just wanted to be on the road like Kerouac. I did. But I like the draft. I think it mixes people up good and simply said, one should help out the country. ‘Nuf there.
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On Mon, Jan 21, 2019 at 1:12 PM CherriesWriter – Vietnam War website wrote:
> pdoggbiker posted: “My friend, Joe Campolo, Jr. wrote and published this > article on his website back in 2016, and I believe his story could be any > of our own…simply substitute your name, town, and year. Joe is an > award-winning author of three Vietnam War books, a poet and” >
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I served with 1st Marine Division ‘68-‘69. My return was similar. To be candid, I was acutely aware of VFW’s attitude toward VN Vets. I’ve never set foot in a VFW and never will. I earned a masters degree in 1984 and put on my resume that I was a marine VN Vet , combat decorated, honorable discharge. I was told to take it off the resume as no one is interested in hiring VN Vets. Sad! I kept it on the resume…screw those asivisors back then.
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No, the VFW was not a very friendly place. Try and find a job. “Just back from Vietnam? That position has already been filled.” Enroll in college and treated as an outcast and asked to leave the class as other students were afraid of you. We vets know how it was and the vets of today get the royal treatment and they should. When we see how they are treated and how we were treated, it can create a little animosity in our minds.
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July 13, 1971
I was at Fort Lewis Washington getting to be released from active duty. I finally made it back to the “World”.
As I (we) stood in what would be my last formation an E6 told us to get in our civilian clothing as soon as we could and if any civilian asked us what was our occupation just say you are a security guard. I had no idea what the heck is he was talking about. The reception I got at Seattle’s Airport made it clear to me why we were warned. Being called a baby killer hit me hard. No one wanted to see you except your loved ones. I went to a VFW hall and got a beer but the bartender told me to drink the beer and leave. I was not welcomed by them either. I went to college but I just didn’t fit in. I did not seem to fit in anywhere. Over the years I have joined the VFW but my heart is never in it. It still feels hollow but I’m trying.
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