MILITARY MATTERS: Vietnam Veterans Honored in Columbus, 49 Years After End of War
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - On March 29th, 1973, the last U.S. combat troops departed the Republic of Vietnam after a long, bloody war. Almost five decades later, the Columbus Fort Benning community honored those who fought and died there.
“At a time when our country needed us, we responded to the call,” Vietnam War veteran Bain Cowell said.
49 years - to the day - after the last unit of American soldiers pulled out of Vietnam, veterans of that war reunited at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus. It was for Vietnam War Veterans Day, which was created in 2017.
The backdrop for this local commemoration was a replica of the Vietnam Wall, filled with the names of the 58 thousand Americans killed in Vietnam.
“It (commemoration event) means a lot to me, because a lot of these people didn’t make it back and I did, and it laid heavy on my heart sometimes,” Vietnam War veteran Rodney Weiss said.
“I was an artillery forward observer, and most of the year (in Vietnam) I spent flying around in helicopters and light spotter planes, controlling artillery fire, long range artillery, using my maps and 2-way radio, saw a lot of action from above,” Cowell also told us.
Vietnam vet Cowell says there are misconceptions about the war. The facts: 75 percent of U.S. soldiers who fought there were volunteers, not draftees. And 30 percent came back with PTSD. Cowell remembers battles he was in the thick of, including a big one in 1967.
“4 hours of fighting, more than 800 soldiers died on both sides, Vietcong and U.S. Army,” Cowell remembers.
Close to half the group at this event was from the 196th light infantry brigade, which now has a new memorial on the NIM’s walk of honor. Some of them have friends whose names are on the Vietnam Wall, friends they thought would make it home.
“I’m infantry. I’m supposed to be shot at. These guys were radar technicians. They weren’t supposed to be shot at,” Weiss said.
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