CINCINNATI — The local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America gathered Tuesday for a luncheon and open house to honor those who served in the Vietnam War.
President Barack Obama signed a presidential proclamation in 2012 declaring March 29 Vietnam Veterans Day. On that day in 1973, the last troops returned to the U.S. from Vietnam, marking the end of U.S. involvement in the war.
“My first firefight, I actually got wounded,” said Carl Clark, a veteran who was drafted in 1968, two days after Christmas. “It was a big awakening for me. It wasn’t television, like what we used to see.”
Clark said during that fight he was shot in the leg.
“It wasn’t bad enough, so they sent me back out there,” he said.
During his 12 months in Vietnam, Clark said he re-injured the same leg.
“A lot of people say ‘you go over there a boy and come back a man,’" Clark said. "You’re mentally fit when you come back, or when you make it back, and I think it helped me in my career.”
Throughout the years, Clark said he has had several dreams about when he got to return to the United States. He says he thankfully does not have dreams of the gruesome deaths he saw on the battlefield.
“When your number came up, it came up,” said Ron Buchanan, a Vietnam veteran and a board member for Chapter 10.
While in Vietnam, Buchanan served as a single-person replacement soldier.
“You were very much moving around as they need you,” Buchanan said. “Replacing people as they needed you, depending on what the military status was at that time.”
For Buchanan, March 29 symbolizes the sacrifice combat troops made in Vietnam.
“There were people that I did know that ended up losing their lives,” Buchanan said. “Their names are on the wall in Washington D.C. for giving the ultimate sacrifice and service to their country.”
Like Clark, Buchanan said he’s grateful to be alive and share these experiences with those who understand it most.