Finally Saying Thanks to Vietnam Vets

Vietnam. Just mention the geographical place where the United States was heavily involved in the Vietnam War, and for many individuals emotions still run deep. The website, www.about.com, states, “The Vietnam War has become a benchmark for what not to do in all future U.S. conflicts.”

One of the primary items on that list of what not to do concerns how fellow citizens treated American soldiers returning from serving in Vietnam. After all, during the 1960s and until U.S. troops were finally withdrawn in March 1973, almost 60,000 Americans died in Vietnam. In addition, of the more than 2.5 million who served in South Vietnam, 75,000 were severely disabled.

Yet it is with shame that I remember as a teenager when our servicemen and women returned home, they were not met with a hero’s welcome. Those of you who are also old enough, can probably recall nightly news casts of soldiers being greeted in airports with signs that called them, “Baby killers,” or worse. Instead of being honored, many of these courageous patriots endured bystanders shouting profanities or spitting on them.

One myth that exists is that most of those serving in the war were drafted. According to a 1993 Memorial Day speech made at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall by Lt. Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, 70 percent of those who died in Vietnam volunteered for service. This correlates with the fact that two-thirds of those who served during this conflict were volunteers not draftees.

Whether drafted or volunteered, there is little difference that the majority of these men and more than 7,000 women, who were primarily nurses, believed in their mission. During a 1986 speech, it was Gen. William Westmoreland who The History Channel documents as saying, “Ninety-one percent of Vietnam veterans say they are glad they served.” Even though there was such great loss of life and limb.

Staff Sgt. Greg Huston - Missing in Action from Shelby County, Ohio

Staff Sgt. Greg Huston – Missing in Action from Shelby County, Ohio

One of those losses can still be felt in Shelby County, concerning one of their own, Charles Gregory Huston. According to www.findagrave.com, “Staff Sergeant Huston was a member of the 5th Special Forces Group. [Forty-five years ago,] on March 28, 1968, he was conducting a reconnaissance patrol about 15 miles inside Laos…when the patrol was attacked by an unknown enemy force. Extraction was attempted, but heavy ground fire forced the helicopter to leave Staff Sergeant Huston on the ground.” Along with the then 22-year-old Huston, Sgt. Alan Boyer, and Sgt. 1st Class George Brown were also left behind.

Neither Huston’s body nor either of his comrades has ever been recovered. Huston was given the official casualty date of Jan. 26, 1977. The Green Beret is the only Shelby County, Ohio, resident who remains missing in action, while nationwide more than 1,600 soldiers are also unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

Greg, as friends called him, was born on Sept. 29, 1945, graduated from Hardin-Houston High School, and later “enlisted” in the Army according to his 55 year-old-brother, John Huston, who lives in the Sidney, Ohio, area. The youngest of eight siblings, John said that his late mother, who died in 1982, never gave up hope that her son would be found.

John Huston, his brother, Robert, and friend, Keith Goins, were effective in getting the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall to the Sidney community in 2005 in Greg’s honor. Robert Huston was even employed with the commemorative project until about two years ago. John’s son, Gregory Huston, who was named after his missing brother is following in his uncle’s Green Beret footsteps by enlisting as part of the military Special Forces last fall.

As a journalist, interviewing Vietnam War veterans these past decades has taught me one important lesson: The responsibility that we as Americans still have to thank them for their service. After risking their lives on our behalf, they should have been greeted with gratitude and respect instead of name-calling and jeers.

As a nation, we have tried to make up for our tragic treatment of these brave men and women. For example, last year the Ohio General Assembly officially designated March 30 as Vietnam Veterans Day.

For me personally, whenever I encounter a Vietnam vet, I reach my right hand out to shake theirs while sincerely saying, “Thank you for serving our country.” Once a veteran told me it was the first time that he had ever been thanked

On the upcoming July 4th holiday, I will be remembering Huston and all the other brave men and women who died defending our freedom. Their sacrifice has allowed America to remain, “The land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

This blog post is dedicated to my nephew, Nicholas Anthony Lombardo who is currently serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

 

 

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Battling Addictions: There is Help!

Scotch & WaterWith headlines pointing to celebrities in and out of rehab clinics and many communities plagued with serious drug issues, we can forget that alcoholism remains a problem of great dimension. It is, “The most abused drug in our society,” said Cynthia Moore.

A lot of clients who are struggling with addictions including alcohol are referred to the Shelby County Counseling Center where Mrs. Moore is the Substance Abuse Clinical Supervisor. “…90 percent of our [addictions] client base are ordered by the court to be here, which means they have had an alcohol or drug related offense.” Getting help is often, “An alternative to jail or prison, if they successfully complete a program,” she said. Mrs. Moore has been in the business of helping folks overcome addictions since 1987. Yet the passion for the cause is still evident in her voice. Working in the field began as a college internship. “…I had some family members who struggled with alcohol addiction. I just thought…I’ll just try it. I never did anything else since. I love it,” she said.

It appears difficult to isolate alcohol abuse solely though, since many of the agency’s clients struggle with cross-addiction. “They may have another primary drug, heroin is huge right now, but always drinking in the interim,” said the addictions expert. “We see cross-addiction…where they are addicted to many substances.”

As for putting a face on the problem, the supervisor believes, “The reality is we are interacting with people who are functioning with addictions everyday. First, we must get to know individuals better, before we see their struggle.” Whether it is an employer or family member, “Sometimes they get angry, they don’t understand that drug addiction or alcoholism is a disease,” she said. “It’s important to separate the person from the disease.” Moore is emphatic in stressing the importance of recognizing that, “This is always a disease. You are going to see mood swings…[also] this disease causes people to break their value systems.”

How do we know when it’s time to seek help for someone we care about? “As theAlcoholics Anonymous disease progresses, the effect on those major life areas get bigger and bigger and easier to see,” said the supervisor. “What people don’t realize is that chemical dependency treatment is a cumulative process,” she said. “Many things throughout someone’s life have to accumulate before they are ready [to get help]. They might be job problems, health problems, legal problems, medical problems, spiritual problems, [ etc.]” Alcoholism is “cunning, baffling, and powerful,” said Moore, quoting from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. “Part of our treatment program is to introduce them to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Al-Anon. She asserts that it is, “Very important for an addicted person to find others who have walked that path and succeeded. They cannot fight addiction alone. They need others with them to help them deal with the thing that has become more powerful then themselves.”

As for church support groups like Celebrate Recovery, Cynthia Moore considers these to be, “Very helpful avenues, as well.” Although she admits that the drawback is that many individuals battling with substance abuse can also struggle with a lack of worthiness initially making seeking assistance from a religiously-affiliated source difficult for them. To be an advocate for someone fighting addiction, “We have to be aware of the resources in our community. In every county there is an agency that is dedicated to helping the addicted population,” said Moore. Agencies like Shelby County Counseling Center offer, “…support services to the family, as well the addict,” she said. The Center’s primary “funding stream comes from the Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services. We have a sliding scale based on family size and income,” Moore explained. [Although] “…we never ever refuse anyone service based on ability to pay,” she added.

If you are wondering if you have a problem, or concerned that someone you love might, you “…can call and just talk to counselor,” said Moore. This doesn’t require an appointment, instead phone the center and ask, “Can I just talk to counselor for a moment?” Moore suggested. “Really, what it is about, if this is the time for them to be ready,” said the mental health professional.

Is it your time to get some help? It takes a lot more courage to pick up the phone, than to simply suffer in silence. Call the Board of Mental Health in your area and ask for a referral, visit a church recovery group, or attend an AA, NA, or Al-Anon meeting to learn more. Check your local newspaper’s community calendar for meeting places and times. There is hope for breaking free of addictions, but you have to take the first step. After all, the life you save may be your own.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning journalist and inspirational speaker. This post is excerpted from a column which originally appeared in the Sidney Daily News on February 4, 2013.

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