Vietnam Vets Thankful 30 Years Later
By Charlie Coon
Stars and Stripes
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
"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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