The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

January 28, 2013

Vets receive overdue thanks

DANVILLE — It was a difficult job — serving in the military during the unpopular Vietnam War. When the men and women returned home, they were ignored, taunted or spit upon.

Forty years later, some local veterans who served in that era basked in words of appreciation and thanks.

“These were the men who served in an unpopular war, and yet they went and served proudly because they knew the importance of freedom,” Harold Fritz of Peoria, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, said during a program Monday. “They went out there with their bellies full of fire, fighting to bring freedom to a people who yearned for it.”

Fritz, a Vietnam veteran, served as emcee at a program marking the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam War ceasefire. Dozens of veterans from all eras attended the program at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.

Students from Tri-Valley Middle School in Downs led the pledge of allegiance, national anthem and provided special entertainment.

The words from people like Fritz hit home for many in the audience. At the local VA, there are 91 inpatients who served in Vietnam.

James Tucker, formerly of Charleston, recalled people’s reaction when he returned home in February 1973 after two and a half years in the Army in Vietnam. “They called me a baby killer,” he said.

He and his fellow veterans were not appreciated, he said, but he knew public opinion would turn around eventually. “It’s good to see the veterans are being thanked,” he said. “I really appreciate that.”

Tucker was in the infantry, was a helicopter door gunner and then crew chief for a general. In December 1972, he was in the helicopter that picked up Henry Kissinger, then assistant to the president for National Security Affairs, in South Vietnam and took him to the peace talks.

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