In April of 1967, I went to the induction station in Indianapolis and joined the U.S. Army. I was fresh out of high school. My uncle and both parents served in WWII. I just thought that was the right thing to do. I served as a member of the infantry in South Vietnam in December 1967 until December 1968.
Veterans Day has since then been the same as the other 364 days of the year.
A lot of folks see Veterans Day as a day for me as a veteran. But it’s not. I went and I made it back OK. But a lot of folks who went were killed.
Their families don’t grieve one day a year. They grieve 365 days a year.
To me, Veterans Day is for those grieving and those who served with me who did not make it back or who did not make it back the same as they left.
More than 9 million Americans served in the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, 2.7 million of them in the country of Vietnam, according to statistics. An estimated 1,535 Indiana residents were killed or missing in Vietnam.
Indiana lost almost 12,000 people during WWI, while another 17,000 returned home wounded, according to the Indiana War Memorial statistics.
Those scars and others remain. Returning vets had an enormous emotional cross to bear and many still do. A 2015 study said about 271,000 Vietnam vets still had PTSD symptoms.
We didn’t have a name for that in 1970. But we knew what it was. There were things that we just wouldn’t tell anyone else, but that we freely told each other. A lot of veterans are reticent to talk to people were not veterans themselves. You kind of had to be there.
I returned home in 1970. That’s when I found out that were a lot of people who wouldn’t hire Vietnam vets. They thought we were unstable.
We lost 71 in my company of 160 men — guys that had such promising lives who were taken from us and their families and loved ones. Others suffered very serious injuries.
But those of us who made it kept in touch. Men from every profession and skill, from every state in the union. My greatest honor in life is being in this group.
I am very proud of these men and what they and their loved ones gave to us all. My only goal is to remind people about them as often as I can. So, always at some point of every day — not just Veterans Day— remember one of our greatest generations of soldiers.
May God continue to watch over these veterans and their loves ones, our great country and men and women from all wars.
Tim Long, 72, is a retired Indiana Department of Corrections employee and lives in rural Carbon, Indiana.