WASHINGTON — The tears came suddenly for Willard resident Dan Young as he talked about his experience with the U.S. Army in Vietnam.
“I served from January ‘68 to March of 1970 — 27 months over there,” he said.
Young and his wife Elaine visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall Saturday morning as part of the Huron County Honor Trip. More than 30 local veterans, their spouses or family members plus eight students from Norwalk and St. Paul high schools were on the three-day trip to the Washington area. This was the fifth event in four years.
The group visited the Vietnam Veterans, Lincoln, Korean War, World War II, Marine Corps, Air Force, Pentagon and American Veterans Disabled for Life memorials in the nation’s capital. The first stop Friday afternoon was the hangar for the National Air and Space Museum near Washington Dulles International Airport and the trip ended Sunday morning with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Young began to break down in tears as soon as he started thinking about what it means to see the soldiers’ names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall.
“Woah. … I drove truck over there. I started a few of these guys on the trip home. I had a hard time coming down here,” he said through tears. “I don’t remember none of their names.”
Young was asked what it means to have Vietnam veterans being honored.
“A lot,” he said, his voice breaking up.
Young transported ammunition, supplies and even some corpses while he was in Vietnam.
“I picked them up at the morgue to take them to the plane,” he said.
“I only drove them down to the airport. … I was in Can Tho in southern Vietnam and they took them up to Saigon. That actually started their trip home. I always look at it that I started the trip,” added Young, who transported many deceased soldiers from September through December 1969.
“I lost count of them. It was like seven or eight of them maybe that I picked up and I took to the airport. I remember they always had to have baseball caps on and nice, clean fatigues,” he said. “Until now it didn’t really bother me.”
Young recalled it was through pure luck he didn’t end up being killed in Vietnam. He said he was driving the 10th vehicle in a caravan and the 11th one ended up getting hit by a bomb.
“I’m lucky I’m not on the wall,” the Willard man said.
On the ride home to Ohio, Young shared his experience on the Huron County Honor Trip with the other participants. Among the things he mentioned were that he “just drove truck” in Vietnam and in his opinion, it was “the ground-stompers” — the soldiers on the ground — who did the hardest work.
As Young returned to his seat in the bus, a veteran of the U.S. Army, Jim Alt, told him that driving truck in Vietnam meant a lot to all the soldiers. Alt, of Bellevue, served with the 25th division of the 4th/9th Manchus. He was in the Tay Ninh Province in 1969 and ’70.
Alto told Young that what he did was an element of teamwork — a crucial part of the war effort because without transport drivers, other soldiers wouldn’t be able to get food, supplies or ammunition.
Coming Thursday is a story about a U.S. Air Force veteran who retrieved an etching from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall of a Monroeville man he never met.