The Vietnam War, which technically lasted from 1961 to 1973, is probably one of the most controversial and least understood conflicts in which the United States participated. Thousands of young men were enlisted, others joined voluntarily. Many women also served in Vietnam. Of those who participated in the war, countless were killed or missing in action. Many more were hurt, physically or emotionally. Others fell ill or died from the effects of Agent Orange. But the saddest part of this conflict is that the men and women who served in Vietnam were never welcomed by their compatriots.

On March 29, National Vietnam Veterans Day, the City of Brooksville and Governor DeSantis issued proclamations honoring these veterans and giving them the long-delayed welcome they deserve. The next day, VFW Post 10209 held a ceremony to officially welcome home local men who served in Vietnam.

Post Commander John Coleman, addressing veterans who attended the ceremony, said, “Your contributions are unprecedented; your courage and bravery have made this world a better place to live. The determination of every soldier, sailor, airman, sailor, coast guard and merchant marine has given the people of our country the opportunity for a better life. When they returned home, they often did not receive well-deserved praise from a nation grateful for their sacrifices.

Brooksville Vice Mayor Blake Bell said, The City of Brooksville honors all of our military and appreciates all of the service of our men and women over the years.

VFW Auxiliary Chaplain Gabriella Hieb greeted the nine veterans who attended the ceremony outside the hall. Each lit a votive candle and received a certificate recognizing their service. Here are the men, their military branch and their years of service in Vietnam: Daniel Diethorn (Army 1967-1968); Gene Gannon (Army 1969-1970); Juan Gonzalez (Army 1970-1971); Bob Hieb (Army 1966-1967); Count Landgraff (Army 1967-1968); Norm Pickering (Air Force 1967-1968); and Paul Welch (Navy 1968-1969).

After the veterans arrived, Chaplain Hieb invited anyone present who had a friend or relative who served in Vietnam to also light a candle in their honor.

The nine veterans could probably spend hours recounting their experience if they wanted to. Some prefer not to talk about the war.

Earl Landgraff had planned to enlist in the navy, but was offered a job instead. Three years later, he received his conscription notice and had no choice but to join the army. His basic training was at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. He trained in armor and from there to Ft. Knox where he trained as a scout.

In 1967, he was sent to Vietnam. His unit, the 9th Infantry, 5th Battalion, 60th Mechanized Infantry built Camp Bearcat, the largest base camp in Vietnam. They were nicknamed Bandido Charlie.

“We were in the middle of the convoy and ensured the security of the convoys. If the front of the convoy was attacked, they would radio my unit and we could then call in reinforcements.

At some point during his tour of duty, he was injured when the vehicle he was in ran over a mine. Landgraff was also stationed in Long An province near the South China Sea, right next to the Mekong River, where he carried out river patrols with the navy.

Daniel Deithorn was also drafted into the army and served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967. His unit established a base camp for the rest of the division. It takes a sense of humor to endure what these men endured and Deithorn proves it. He wears a t-shirt with the phrase “Buku Dinki Dow” on the front, which means “A lot crazy” in Vietnamese. On the back, there is a more serious message: “Agent Orange continues to destroy.”

Deithorn gloomily states, “Agent Orange continues to kill people today. 99% of veterans who came back from Vietnam developed diabetes and everything you can imagine.

Juan Gonzalez is originally from Mexico. He was drafted into the army in 1969 and served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971. One of the few respites for GIs was R&R.

“We were going to Camp Eagle and swimming at the beach there. It was a kind of resort to relax for three days before having to return to the field.

After returning from Vietnam, Gonzalez joined the reserves for four years. He then returned to active duty in 1976 due to benefits. He went into the field of military intelligence. Gonzalez remained in the Army until 1983 and retired as Chief Warrant Officer3.

These are just three of the stories of our heroes who served during this difficult time. The next time you see someone wearing a hat or shirt that says Vietnam War Veteran, in addition to saying “Thank you for your service,” ask them about themselves and their experiences. He may not want to talk, but he can open your eyes to a part of history that is not so far behind us.