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thedrifter
07-15-07, 10:07 AM
Published: July 15, 2007 12:51 am

MILITARY: Veteran support

Visiting Vietnam vets discuss their experiences, the current war
By Don Glynnglynnd@gnnewspaper.com
Niagara Gazette

Alvin Simpson still struggles with his deep-rooted feelings about those combat days in the Vietnam, when he served with the U.S. Marines.

“Some of it’s psychological but it’s a godsend to come here and meet with others who have shared the same experience,” said Simpson, among the 130 persons attending the reunion of the 2/3 Vietnam Veterans Association (2nd Battalion-3rd Marines) at the Comfort Inn-The Pointe.

The group represents all Marines who served from 1964 to 1969 in the Vietnam War, which claimed the lives of nearly 58,000 troops.

The reunion attendees — some of whom were accompanied by their wives — appeared united in strongly supporting the present military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. The veterans dislike any discussion about the politics involved.

They did note, however, the troops returning today from Iraq are given a much different reception than what the Vietnam veterans encountered in the late 1960s or after April 1975, when the U.S. withdrew its forces.

“Some of us thought that we were coming back under a cloak of darkness,” Simpson said, alluding to the widespread lack of respect for one of the most unpopular wars in U.S. history.

Simpson also recalled that demeaning day in 1975 when the U.S. helicopters lifted people off the tops of buildings in a frantic exodus from Saigon. “It was depressing to watch that,” he said, “I found myself asking, ‘What was it all for?,’ and thinking about all those names on the (Vietnam) Wall in Washington.”

Harry L. Hoy, a corporal who served tours of duty from 1965 to 1967 recalled how at one time he felt more at ease with the troops in Vietnam than with the attitude that prevailed on the homefront in Michigan.

Hoy said the vet’s association tries to make the Iraqi veterans feel more welcome. “We wouldn’t want them to be treated the way we were.” The group also assists with instructions on how to file for benefits.

“This organization has been very helpful for me. I’ve made some friends and we always look forward to getting together,” Hoy said.

The veterans emphasized their appreciation that Mayor Vince Anello welcomed the group at its opening dinner.

After the mayor presented the association with an engraved coin (as a token of the city), Correia turned the tables and gave Anello a similar ‘Challenge Coin’ that he has had in pocket for decades. “I could see the mayor was touched by that,” he added.

The group arrived Wednesday afternoon, toured the Niagara Falls State Park and spent a couple of days at area attractions.

“Niagara treated us fine,” Correia said, “It was so great to stroll down the street (with our reunion tags) and have passersby walk up and thank us for our service to the country.”

Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.

Ellie