Thank you for your article on the relocation of the Vietnam War Memorial which was in front of the Police Department and Main Post Office. It was placed there appropriately at the time of its creation, and is now, again, in an even more appropriate place for all to see and, for some, to understand.
The 1968 TET (an important local holiday in Vietnam) was a difficult time for troops in Vietnam. It was a time when the leader of North Vietnam, “Uncle Ho”, decided to show us that he could hit us anytime and anywhere. He decided to do it, and his troops did. Those at one of our largest US bases, Tahn Son Nhut, a co-located facility near Saigon airport, as well as most, if not all (I just don’t know) of the bases with American troops, received a sample of this “Uncle Ho” wanted to see us.
Twenty-six defenders from this base had the opportunity to return home shortly before the end of their year. They came back, like many others, each in one of those aluminum containers provided for each of the approximately 29,000 Americans who were killed in that war. Many of those who saw the flatbed trucks transporting their cargoes to the cargo planes designated to bring these troops back to their homeland returned their last “home” salutes. Not something they wanted, of course, but the only thing “we the living” (thanks, Ayn Rand) could do for them at the time.
Yes, I was able to greet them as I walked to my duty after this incident. A few months later, I was able to join them when I returned home. Happy to have been able to return in the preferred way, as have my parents, family and friends. It was the end of my full-time military service. I gathered at a facility near, I think, San Francisco, where the technical sergeant who filled out the necessary paperwork advised me to leave through a back door, there was a crowd of protesters at the front door.
I did what he said, and afterwards I wished I hadn’t. I would have liked to pass by these demonstrators, with or without the spitting which was apparently their thing for the Americans who had been entrusted with the mission of which I, an airman first class, had been entrusted. Well, that’s just the way things were in those days of 1968.
Glad to be home today. Thanks, again, for the memories, Aiken Standard. And thank you to all those who created and finalized this memory to those of our soldiers, some of whom preceded me on my return.
Stephen Vaughn Geddes
A1C, then SMSGT, (Ret.), SC Air National Guard