Memorial Holds Special Meaning For Surviving Soldiers

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The Vietnam War Memorial has special significance to me and others like myself who were directly involved in the conflict.


I recall walking through a large aircraft hangar at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines in 1968 during the Tet Offensive. (I observed) more than 3,500 bodies of servicemen of all branches of the service stacked in wooden crates with the use of a Toyota forklift. Clark was a trans-shipment depot for killed servicemen. The average age of those killed, not (including) NCOs or officers, was 19.5 years. That morning in 1968, our crew was headed for Saigon to deliver an airplane to an active rescue unit.


Vietnam was a hot, muggy environment for our servicemen. Their efforts have never been fully appreciated by most Americans. Discussions with Army and Air Force officers at the officers quarters who were on R&R from the battle zones gave indication as early as 1967 that we would not win that conflict if we continued to fight it the way we were doing it at that time. One Army captain, who was fighting in the Mekong Delta, felt he was fighting more to save Exxon than to stop Communist aggression. Another Army captain was bitter about Michelin halting arms and ammunition in large trucks to the Vietcong and in exchange using the same trucks to haul out latex harvested by the Communists in an exchange arrangement. Those killed or missing were not the only victims of the conflict. More than 200,000 were physically or mentally disabled during the conflict.


Paul R. Gonnerman

Lt. Col. USAFR retired

Payson

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