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Vietnam Vets Thankful 30 Years Later
By Charlie Coon
Stars and Stripes
European Edition
May 7, 2005

STUTTGART, Germany In close combat, some fighters die and some don't.

So when men reflected on what Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day meant to them, some thought about luck how lucky they were not to be killed, and how unlucky others were.

"I heard the guy yell 'Incoming!' and I ran out of the Quonset hut and turned right and not left," said Olen Cogan. "If I'd have turned left, I'd have probably died. But you don't know."

Cogan, a retired chief warrant officer, was one of about 20 Vietnam vets feted Thursday in a small ceremony at Patch Barracks. The occasion marked the 30th anniversary of the day, May 7, 1975, when President Ford declared the end of the war.

"I think it's great that we can have this day; for one thing, because we're alive and can all be here together," Cogan said. "For another, that we still have people who want to get together and not forget."

Others commented on how times had changed.

"It was an outstanding [ceremony] for us," said retired Sgt. 1st Class Haywood Donerson Jr., who served three tours in Vietnam. "Vietnam veterans are just starting to get recognition.

"When we came back, we had rocks thrown at us, people spit at us and we were called all sorts of names.

"Now, with what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, people are starting to recognize and appreciate the soldiers," Donerson said.

The event lasted one hour. It included a color guard, prayer, poem, speech and song. About 50 people came. The gray sky gave way to sunshine right on cue as the event began.

It was organized by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10810 of Stuttgart and its commander, Bob Gambert. At one point during the ceremony, Gambert asked people to think about what the event meant to them.

Retired Master Sgt. Ronald Talley said he served three tours between 1964-1972. His time in Vietnam totaled five years and 20 days.

"I'd seen a lot of people die in Vietnam in the time I was there," Talley said. "It wasn't nice but it was a job I had to do.

"It was my job."

As a door gunner flying over Vietnam in a UH-1 Huey helicopter, Gambert was narrowly missed by an enemy round that pierced the chopper. So he, too, used the moment to reflect.

"And I thought the same thing I always thought," Gambert said. "That by the grace of God, I'm here."

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2005 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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