Letter from Bob Worthington

Published in Midwest Flyer – Aug/Sept 2016

Dave:

I finished reading the magazines you sent me. Looking forward to getting more!

In the February/March 2016 issue, I really liked the “Operation LZ” article by Jim Hanson. It is interesting how so many Vietnam vets feel they were cheated out of a proper homecoming.

Hanson is correct when he describes Vietnam as a war of individuals. Today, units depart the states for combat service, as a single unit. When their time is up (be it a few months or longer), the entire unit departs, to return home where there are ceremonies for the entire unit (back at their home station, be it an active duty unit or Reserves or the National Guard). Units did deploy to Vietnam as single units from companies to divisions. But they did not return after a year, but remained assigned to Vietnam. When a total unit was assigned to Vietnam, initially, after its first six months in country, it began transferring men out of the unit to other places in Vietnam. They were replaced by individuals who (mostly) just arrived in Vietnam and would be in-country for 9 to 12 months later. Doing this rotation over six months, it insured that the units would have command continuity in that everyone would not leave at the same time. But most soldiers were sent to Vietnam as individual replacements.

I never saw a homecoming ceremony as something I deserved. In fact, in the 1950s when I first engaged in combat as an enlisted Marine in the Middle East, I deployed as a member of a unit (a reinforced infantry combat amphibious landing battalion), where we left the states as a large, single unit and returned as such. But when we returned to the states and our home base (Camp Lejeune, NC), there were no parades or any ceremonies. We were all glad to just get back. Parades or ceremonies were not expected by any of us. We were all volunteers (no draftees in the Marines, then), and combat was what we were trained to do. So I never thought that I was entitled to some kind of “homecoming” ceremony after each of my Vietnam combat tours.

Upon my return, I was not spit on or treated in any hostile manner. After my last tour, I came home to enter graduate school (I left active duty, but remained in the active Reserves…like the recently crowned Miss USA). I had the GI Bill for school and thought that was a great benefit. (I used the GI Bill for two Master degrees, a PhD and most of my instrument rating, so I can’t complain…all of that was better than a homecoming parade). But a lot of Vietnam vets believe that they should have had some type of “homecoming” ceremony. Most of these vets were not career military.

But at this airshow, what Hanson did (and all the others) is amazing. It was quite an airshow and the article was very good. I especially liked the parts on the Hueys. My life was saved by a Huey medevac flight once and another time while conducting a night special ops mission I got shot in a Huey.  So I have a lot of time in Hueys.

Anyway, the article by Hanson was great and very interesting. By the way, the article mentions the turbo, twin-engine Grumman Mohawk, counter-insurgency recon plane. Did you know that the USAF brought two similar planes, the VN era OV-10 Bronco, counter-insurgency attack/recon plane out of mothballs and sent them to Afghanistan? Senator John McCain (chair of the Armed Forces Committee) was against this, but it is better for close air-ground combat support and much cheaper than the fighter jets. They have returned to the states for evaluation and to decide what to do with them (probably not use them, again).

Bob Worthington
Lt. Col. U.S. Army (retired)
Las Cruces, NM

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