Vietnam War Reunion / Education Night:
The Brother & Sisterhood of Vietnam Veterans is a bond that time will never sever. This was very clear at The Highground’s Vietnam War Reunion/Education Night, held Monday April 30, 2012.
Veterans and guest from around Wisconsin joined together for an evening of education, remembrance, healing and camaraderie. The panel of Veterans consisted of Gordy Burr of Hewitt, Skip Sparks of Abbotsford and Don Quicker of Neillsville.
Gordy was 19 when he went to Vietnam; he was a member of a “DUSTOFF” team. DUSTOFF was an unarmed medevac group. Gordy was given his first helicopter just 2 weeks after arriving in Vietnam. You had to run 25 combat missions to be awarded a medal; Gordy earned his first medal in 7 days. His crew would evacuate and care for 12,000 patients a year. Missions were dangerous, the pilots would not land but hover over the ground just low enough for the crew to either reach down and grab the soldiers or jump out grab them and jump back in with them. The crew members would guide the pilots down by sticking their heads out the sides of the chopper and giving directions in inches and feet. There was no GPS at that time so the pilots would strap a map to their knees and fly by that.
Skip was a Green Beret; they were involved with the Top Secret special missions. Skip was involved in 21 missions, during his two tours in Vietnam; 19 of them were under hostile fire. He shared his feelings of respect and gratitude with Gordy, reiterating that had it not been for the DUSTOFF Teams he and his men would not have survived many of those missions. Upon returning home Skip was one of the soldiers that were spit on, called a baby killer and just treated with utter disrespect. He even encountered another American Service member that accused him of wearing ribbons and medals he had not earned. Skip had to show him his paper work to prove he had earned each and every one of them. Skip said he was proud of serving his country, but was very hurt by the disrespect shown to him and many, many others on their return home.
Don was an “old timer” when he joined the service and went to Vietnam at the age of 23. Most were 17 – 19 years old. He worked in a finance department with the 101st Airborne. He vividly remembers the knee deep mud, the torrential rains, the bitter cold, the unbearable heat, stating that the 114 degree days were the nice days, and the unforgettable stench of the air. They would have to trudge through the knee deep mud to climb into their half dry hooch, strip down, ring out their undergarments and put them back on, hoping their body heat would dry them out for the next day. They would quickly take off their boots and socks, ring them out and get them back on right away. They wore them 24 hours a day to prevent their feet from swelling so much they would not be able to get there boots back on. Don said “Vietnam was the most profound effect on my life”.
After the discussion, the group enjoyed beverages and snacks, but most of all the being together and sharing of memories, feelings and support. I believe we all walked away with a better insight on the real side of the Vietnam War and a true sense of belonging and friendship.