DENHAM SPRINGS — Local Vietnam War veterans gathered Saturday at Old City Hall to reminisce with each other and educate visitors about their battlefield experiences.
The event was a fun, family-oriented event where people could come to learn about the war and meet veterans, said Patti Smith Peairs, director of Old City Hall.
Wayne Evans, who served during the Vietnam War, proudly pointed himself out to his grandsons in a photo on display at the museum. His uniform also was on display.
“I was a volunteer,” Evans said. “I loved flying.”
The photo showed Evans in 1972 sitting on top of his helicopter — one of only two of its kind at the time. It was slow, Evans said, but it carried a whole lot of power.
Evans said his crew took out 24 tanks in one tour of duty.
Mark Young and Thomas Jarreau had their own stories to share.
Drafted as a teenager, Young said he wanted to go to Vietnam.
“My generation came from families who had lived through World War II,” Young said. “My uncle was killed in that war.”
However, youthful enthusiasm aside, Young said the flight to Vietnam was silent.
“You could’ve heard a pin drop,” he said. “There were no heroes then.”
Later, however, he received a medal for valor as well as a Purple Heart.
He got two wounded men to the safety of a helicopter to be evacuated but said he doesn’t know if they survived.
Young said he served during the Tet Offensive and received a head wound.
Jarreau also was drafted.
“I was a sniper,” he said.
Both men spoke passionately about the treatment Vietnam veterans received when they came back to the United States.
“When we came home from Vietnam, we were treated so poorly,” Jarreau said. “They brought us in through the back of the airport so protesters wouldn’t see us.
“People have a different perspective of veterans now,” Jarreau said.
Despite that different perspective, both Jarreau and Young said veterans today do not receive enough benefits.
“You fight for your country, then come home and fight for benefits,” Jarreau said.
It’s great to come to events like these, though, Young said.
It helps to remember that people care, he said.
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