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Honoring Our Vietnam Veterans

National Vietnam Veterans Day, March 29, commemorates the sacrifices of Vietnam veterans and their families. It's a celebration with the theme of "Welcome Home."

Last month, we featured on our Lean to the Left podcast interviews with Vietnam vet and author, Robin Bartlett and Vietnam war historian Bob Buzzanco, marking the 50th anniversary of the peace treaty that ended America's involvement in the long war in Indochina. If you haven't checked out those interviews, I urge you to do so by clicking on the Podcast tab above.

Historian Bob Buzzanco

Buzzanco is a history professor at the University of Houston and co-host of the Green & Red Podcast and is the author of Vietnam and the Transformation of American Life, Masters of War: Military Dissent and Politics in the Vietnam Era and many other publications about the Vietnam War.

In his interview Buzzanco traces the key developments in the war, including the tragic Christmas bombings ordered by President Richard Nixon, resulting in America's condemnation virtually worldwide. The audio version of this episode can be heard here, and the video version can be seen here.

Meanwhile, Bartlett takes us back 50 years to a "boots on the ground" account of his extraordinary combat experiences as a 22-year-old 1st Lieutenant with the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam.

Robin Bartlett on the ground in Vietnam.

As a combat infantry platoon leader, he deployed a 32-man platoon on search and destroy missions and helicopter assaults into hot landing zones at the height of the Vietnam War.

In the episode, we hear about the horror, fear, anguish, and sometimes illogical humor of that war. Bartlett talks about the long-term impact, both positive and negative, on his home life and business career...with insights about leadership, courage, PTSD, and life lessons learned. Listen to this podcast here. View this podcast here.

In an email published today, Bartlett discusses the importance ofd saying "Welcome Home" whenever you encounter a Vietnam veteran. Here is what he writes:

Vietnam vets are a special breed. We come in many shapes and colors. You will notice more and more of us these days as Vietnam veterans begin to walk in the boots of their Korean and WWII brothers. Some proudly wear ball caps denoting the unit in which they served with pins showing their decorations. Our hair is going grey. We have wrinkles on our faces, and some suffer from the ravages of age, battle wounds, PTSD, the scourge of toxic burning and Agent Orange. But as our numbers gradually decline, just as our brothers in previous wars have faded, we ask only for a few kind words of acknowledgement that we served to protect the freedoms and livelihood Americans now enjoy.

When you meet us, I encourage you to greet us with a phrase that shows you truly care and have a deeper understanding of those of us who served in our war. There is nothing wrong with saying thank you for your service and it is sincerely appreciated by most Vietnam veterans. But if you want to tell us that you honor our sacrifice, bring lumps to our throats and tears to our eyes, say Welcome Home and watch the reaction. It’s a gamechanger.

Chaplain Gatty (r) receives an award from his commanding officer for his service.

As we pause to honor all those who served, I want to pay tribute to my own father, Col. Charles R. Gatty, who was a chaplain in Vietnam -- this after also serving as a flight mechanic in the Army Air Force in World War II. He entered the chaplaincy in 1955 and retired in 1975.

Chaplain Gatty received the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, the World War II, the Army Occupation Medal-Japan, the Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Stars, the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.

After his retirement from the military, he was director of the Columbus (Ga.) Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for two years before he moved to Eufaula, AL, in 1977, where he lived until his death Nov. 3, 2006.

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