On Thursday, I was invited to speak at the Opening Ceremonies for The Wall That Heals. Being in the presence of a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial along with so many veterans and so much pomp and circumstance brought back deep, heartfelt feelings and emotions for me. It was a time when our country was in turmoil, yet the men and women of my generation bravely answered freedom’s call.
The name of my roommate, Donald Jacques is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial along with tens of thousands of others who gave their lives in service to our country. His name will forever be engraved on panel 41E, line 22 of the wall. 2nd Lieutenant Jacques and many like him – husbands, wives, sons, daughters, moms, and dads – may not have lived a long life, but we all fought for one another in Vietnam. We took orders because we had to, and we battled for the person to our right and left. We were family.
After finishing at San Diego State and being drafted by the Army, I decided to join the Marines. I left sunny San Diego and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Over several years, I fought numerous battles, defended many positions, and learned about leadership, life, and character.
Upon my return from Vietnam, there were no parades, no banners, and relatively few thank you’s. That was the culture at home for an unpopular war, and unfortunately it impacted the popularity of America’s bravest. I’m very grateful that today regardless of the popularity of a war or conflict, the troops remain popular. I like to believe that change started after Vietnam.
Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North once said, “I would not trade you a billion dollars for the kids I led to combat in Vietnam or in fact any of the Marines that I served with for a quarter of a century.” That’s precisely how I feel too. My time in the Marines was priceless.