The U.S. withdrew from Vietnam almost 45 years ago, but the impact of that conflict is still felt today.
Vietnam Veteran’s Day is celebrated March 29 to honor the sacrifice made by those who served in the Vietnam conflict.
Roger Newall, city of Albuquerque veteran’s liaison and 150th Special Operations Wing honorary commander, is one of these veterans.
Newall enlisted in the Air Force in 1965 as a loadmaster. During his three and a half years in active duty, he became experienced with several types of aircraft and spent over 2,000 hours in the air.
He volunteered to go to Vietnam to better serve his country.
“My mother wasn’t really happy but she was not negative,” Newall said. “She wished me well, but with a sad look in her eyes.”
During the first month in Vietnam, Newall was wounded, along with 12 others.
“We were going to a Special Forces camp to do an off loader and we got mortared,” Newall said. “There were 200-plus holes in my plane and it lost two engines. Five days before I’m finishing my second year I got a distinguished flying cross and a purple heart.”
Newall served a total of 12 months in Vietnam, but his fight continued back in the United States.
“We were treated very ugly. Long flight home, we were in uniform, and I got spit on in Frisco,” Newall said. “I got picketed when I got into Boston. There’s my wife-to-be, my parents, and everybody else. The picketers were all out on the concrete, so it was not a happy thing.”
After returning home in 1969, Newall went back to college. He didn’t share much about his experiences in Vietnam for several years.
“You basically didn’t tell anybody that you were from Vietnam,” he said. “You kind of just buried it. Most of my friends didn’t learn of the awards that I received, or that I had even been there, until the mid-90s, late 80s.”
Today, Newall is proud of the improvement in the way veterans are treated.
“That was very important to Vietnam veterans, to make sure that the current crop of veterans never get treated the way we did,” he said.
He said it’s still important for Vietnam veterans to get the support and treatment they need and deserve.
“Support for veterans is crucial” Newall said. “They’re still trying to find some way to justify their actions based on their combat experience. They’re different people, and the world is different, even if it’s only marginally different.”
Newall’s advice to not only Vietnam veterans, but all veterans, is the same.
“Seek support with those people who you’re close to or other veterans,” he said. “Get back into society, whether you’re still in the military or completely out. See what you can offer; you can’t be on the outside looking in.”