Thursday, November 12, 2015

Vietnam vet urges all to support veterans

A generation of young American men were called upon to serve their country in the jungles of Vietnam, and most of them were never properly thanked for their service. These young men answered that call, many or most against their own wishes, and put their lives on the line for their country and their loved ones. Of those, 58,209 died in combat and another 153,303 were wounded.

The ones who did return came back to, at best, a lukewarm receptions. Veterans returning home from World War II and the Korean War were praised as heroes, complete with welcome home parades. Soldiers that served in Vietnam were portrayed in anti-war culture as psychos, drug addicts and war mongers. Rather than cheering fans, their planes were greeted by protesters with signs.

“They called us ‘baby killers’,” said Mike Poe of Providence. “Nobody went to Vietnam to kill babies. We went to do what we had to do. Most of us who went came right out of high school. One day you were a boy in school, the next you were over there and you weren’t a kid anymore.”

Poe was drafted into the Army in 1967. He reported to Fort Knox, Ky for basic training and then moved to Fort Polk, La for AIT. He completed Jungle Expert training in Washington state, before shipping out for Vietnam, where he completed Advance Jungle Training at Bien Hoa Air Base.

He was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, also known as ‘The Big Red One’, the US’s longest standing military unit, which has served continuously since its organization in 1917 during World War I.

During the time Poe was in the Division, the Big Red One took part in Tet Offensive, Operation Quyet Thang and Operation Toan Thang.

From the time the 1st Infantry arrived in Vietnam in 1965, until it was reassigned to Fort Riley in 1970, 6,146 soldiers in the division were killed in action, with another 16,019 wounded.

Poe spent 19 and a half months in Vietnam, and like many veterans of that era, he doesn’t like to talk about his service. In his mind, the difficult homecoming most Vietnam veterans received has brought them closer as a group.

“There is a brotherhood among the Vietnam vets,” he

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