Brigadier General Patrick D. Frank, Commanding General of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, was joined by former Sergeant Major of the Army Julius W. Gates and mayors from the surrounding communities in welcoming home 125 area veterans who were deployed during the Vietnam War.
One veteran attending was retired SSG Gregory Wood, 71, who drove from Belton, Texas.
He enlisted in the US Army at the age of seventeen as a way to see more of the world outside of his little farm in the Adirondacks of New York.
Almost immediately after turning eighteen he was sent to Vietnam where he spent four and a half years participating in combat missions in the Chu Lai area with the 101st Airborne and Americal Divisions.
Wood says that when it was his turn to come home, he and thirty other soldiers arrived at Travis Air Force Base in California to out-process.
When they were finished and walked through the airport doors to go outside they were met with a massive group of people screaming at them calling them “baby killers” and throwing garbage at them.
Wood and a majority of the other soldiers were completely confused and had no idea why they were being treated like they were.
Soon after his return, Wood discovered that news reports being circulated in the media were not completely truthful.
Reporters who were embedded with troops on the front lines were showing Americans at home the death and destruction caused by fighting the war, but any good they were doing was often left unreported.
In fact, America was an ally of southern Vietnam and troops were sent to prevent a communist takeover by northern Vietnam who was being supported by the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and North Korea.
Wood spent twenty years in the Army and is proud of his military career. He has never felt shame or that he did anything wrong by serving in Vietnam.
He made the drive to attend the ceremony because the “welcome home” is well deserved and long overdue.