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Retired Lt. Colonel Praises Tag Break, Recalls Vietnam Days

Dear Editor:

  I applaud the decision by legislators to provide a license tag break to those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. They deserve any recognition we can give them. However, please remember that anyone who raised their hand was willing to go anywhere needed. I consider them all heroes.

  Many of us Vietnam veterans remain bitter over our treatment. When we walked through airports in uniform we were spit on. Others who were in and ready to go there and serve were told not to wear their uniforms in public. America has a very “convenient morality”. Now we do candles and flags. My entire C130 squadron deployed from Langley AFB, VA and spent several months in Taiwan and Vietnam, on the way out I was in Thailand.

    We were recalled from various places to meet in Okinawa. We boarded a C141, stopped in Alaska for a crew change and fuel and on to Langley. We landed around 2 a.m. There were no Generals on the flight line to meet us. No news crews but consider a squadron of over 200 had been taken out of the community for months. No sweethearts and wives. We took our bags into an empty hanger and piled them in the middle behind a cordon. Two customs agents ran drug dogs over them. A dog alerted on a bag and that Staff Sergeant and our Commander were called aside.

    We were aghast; to the best of our knowledge none of us used drugs. The dog had alerted on a half bologna sandwich he saved from our box lunches. Our pay was such we did not waste anything, that was his perk to take home and eat later. Then our Commander called us togehter and told us the entire squadron would stand down (be off) for three days and for anyone wanting leave it would be automatically approved.

    He told us how proud he was of us and the job we did over there. That comment was worth as much as any medal ever pinned on me. I had no way of knowing that years later I would be a Commander. I always rememered to give my women and men praise.

  I picked up my bag and walked away into the dark Virginia night.

  Here is my idea. Every state, county and city politician can jump on this one for legislative funding and get some votes. On the next Veterans’ Day all of us who served should be given a half bologna sandwich.

  Harry E. Bethel,
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) USAF
Panola Street
Water Valley 

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