Welcome Home, Finally (Oliver North on Viet Nam)

WelcomeHome, Finally (Oliver North on Viet Nam)

May 18, 2012

WASHINGTON— Forty-three years ago this week, the fabled 101st Airborne Divisionlaunched Operation Apache Snow — a major ground offensive against NorthVietnamese army invaders in the treacherous A Shau Valley. Though fightingraged over hundreds of square miles of triple-canopied jungle, the focus soonbecame a single terrain feature, a mountain, with peaks as high as 3,000 feet,the Vietnamese named Dong Ap Bia, or “Mountain of the Crouching Beast.”The Americans who fought there called it Hamburger Hill.

Bythe time the 11-day battle ended, 70 American soldiers were dead, and nearly400 had been wounded. More than 600 North Vietnamese soldiers perished. Theonly survivors of this epic battle to receive the thanks of their countrymenfor their courage and commitment were the North Vietnamese.

TheAmericans who walked off that bloody mountain — and every other soldier,sailor, airman, guardsman and Marine who served in Vietnam — returned hometo a bitterly divided country. The so-called mainstream media, Hollywood and academe depicted those whoserved in Vietnamas pothead marauders, deranged killers and the “victims” of”Johnson’s war” or “Nixon’s war.”

Therewere no parades celebrating the bravery and perseverance of the 2.7 millionyoung men and women who donned a uniform and served in some of the mostdifficult and dangerous conditions on earth. Until the Vietnam VeteransMemorial — known as the “Vietnam Wall” — was dedicated in1982, public accolades were sparse, and ceremonies outside the confines of amilitary base, an American Legion hall or a Veterans of Foreign Wars post werepractically nonexistent.

Now,five decades after their war began — and 37 years after its disastrous,cataclysmic conclusion — those who fought in Vietnam are finally being welcomedhome. At 1 p.m. EDT onMonday, May 28 — Memorial Day — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta willhost a ceremony “to thank and honor America’s Vietnamveterans on behalf of a grateful nation.” Though tens of thousands of Vietnamveterans, Gold Star families and the leaders of our nation will be there, fewof the potentates of the press have taken note of this extraordinary event.

Nextweek’s ceremony shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. In the 2008 NationalDefense Authorization Act, Congress directed the Department of Defense tocommemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and “coordinate,support, and facilitate” programs nationwide to recognize those whosacrificed and served in Vietnam.

Appropriately,the Memorial Day ceremony will take place in front of “the wall” thathas the names of the 58,282 Americans who were killed or remain missing inaction in Southeast Asia — includingthat of Spc. Leslie Sabo, who posthumously was awarded the Medal of Honor thisweek for his heroism May 10, 1970. Also this week, 10 new names were added to the black granitewalls, and the status of 12 others was changed from “missing” to”killed.” Most of the new names and designation changes are theconsequence of work done by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. As theceremony takes place in Washington,two JPAC teams will be in Laossearching for more Americans unaccounted for in the Vietnam Theater of war.

OnNov 18, 1967,then-U.S. Army Pfc. Sammy Daviswas serving on a small fire support base near Lay, Vietnam.In the middle of the night, hisartillery battery began taking incoming mortar fire and was attacked by a VietCong battalion. He was able to provide suppressing fire with a machine gun andthen return artillery fire onto the enemy. Despite being wounded, he navigatedan air mattress across the river to save three fellow soldiers. For thoseactions, Sgt. 1st Class Sammy Davis was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Iasked my dear friend Sammy Davis why it is important for Vietnamveterans to gather for this commemoration. He said, “Comrades gatherbecause they long to be with the men who once acted their best, men whosuffered and sacrificed, who were stripped raw, right down to theirhumanity.” Of the men he served with, he added: “I did not pick thesemen. They were delivered by fate. But I know them in a way I know no other men.I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something moreprecious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me.It was part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to diefor one another.”

Toall of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines who served during Vietnam,welcome home. I hope to see you this Memorial Day.

Courtesy: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2885109/posts

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