Vietnam Veterans recognized at MCAS New River

2 May 2002 | Sgt. Arthur L. Stone

Marines and other veterans of the Vietnam War gathered Monday at the Aviation Memorial Park on Marine Corps Air Station New River to reflect the sacrifices made by those veterans more than 35 years ago.

At the ceremony "gold-star" mom, Ruth M. Langley received special recognition for losing her son during the war.

Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Joe Houle, now the director of the Marine Corps Museum of the Carolinas, was the guest speaker during the ceremony.  He spoke to the assembled Marines, veterans and guests about his first night in Vietnam with Mike Company, 3d Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

Houle recounted tales of deathly-still nights in stygian darkness and the sounds of enemy troops bumping into pebble-filled cans attached by strings on the camp perimeter as they tried to infiltrate the camp.  Any noise, no matter how slight, he said was immediately answered by the detonation of claymores and the searching fire of M60 machineguns and rifle fire.

"We went to war, not to long crowds and parades on Main Street," said Houle.  "We went without fanfare.  What we found was not what our fathers and grandfathers had faced.  The front line was at our feet and you could get killed as easily in the rear as on the front lines."

"We returned to calls of 'baby killers' and worse.  Today we stand here to honor those who went out without parade or fanfare.  They asked us to do our job and we did."  Houle concluded. "We Vietnam veterans hope and pray that there is never another Vietnam."

Following Houle's speech, the honor guard fired a 21-gun salute. Taps followed and brought many of the veterans to tears.  Cmdr. Howard L. Marshall, MCAS chaplain, closed the ceremony with a prayer for peace and comfort for the veterans and their families.

"No other event in the history of America has been so misreported and misunderstood," concluded Vietnam veteran Clint Free, master of ceremonies for the event, "yet 91-percent of Vietnam vets say they are glad they served, and 74-percent would serve again - even knowing the outcome."