Skip to comments.Vietnam veterans gaining back pride – and medals
Posted on 08/07/2005 10:12:15 AM PDT by USMC Veteran
PROVIDENCE, R.I. Still in his Army greens, William Tallerdy barely had both feet back on American soil when a man came up to him, demanding to know if he was returning from Vietnam. Then, right there in the airport, the heckler punched the veteran in the face. Tallerdy exploded. The police and his relatives had to restrain him.
Soon after, he threw out his war ribbons. That was 1967.
"I was always proud of my military service," said Tallerdy, who is now 57 and lives in Cheyenne, Wyo. "It was just that people made me feel like scum."
Tallerdy wasn't alone. Many returning Vietnam veterans, faced with a hostile public, threw out their medals. Some, like former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, even did it in public as an act of protest. Others simply tossed them in drawers and foot lockers if out of sight, perhaps out of mind.
Four decades and a nation friendlier to the military, though, have helped a number of veterans come to terms with their service. Now, they regard their medals with a renewed sense of pride and are replacing them or dusting them off.
"We made peace with the former enemy," said Bob Kerrey, a former Nebraska senator who earned the Medal of Honor in Vietnam. "And we made peace with a former enemy that had defeated us, which is extremely hard to do."
Tallerdy requested his Purple Heart medal a few years ago. Today, the replacement is in a cabinet alongside eagle figurines, dog tags and other war memorabilia.
The Pentagon doesn't keep statistics on replacement medals, according to spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke. The anecdotal evidence from the veterans themselves, however, suggests the numbers are high.
While Tallerdy displays his Purple Heart in his living room, William Muns shows off his honors among them the Good Conduct and Vietnam service medals on the wall of his office in Beaver County, Pa., where he is the county's director of veterans affairs.
Muns had stashed his medals and his uniform inside a foot locker when he came home in January 1968. He wanted to move on. He never talked about the war, not even with his family.
Then, five years ago, his wife brought his medals out and created a shadow box for him.
"'You were there. You were exposed. You were put in harm's way,'" Muns recalled her telling him.
Many who served in Vietnam, Muns said, are in the process of "coming out" as the passage of time has changed feelings about that war.
"Today we're showing ourselves because we want those men that are active right now to know that they are welcome and they are being supported," Muns said.
Honored though he was, John Wallace packed up his medals because he just didn't want to relive that moment when he helped men out of a downed helicopter before a B-52 strike.
That changed in 1989 when Wallace began doing advocacy work for veterans.
"The doors started opening up in my mind," Wallace said. "I was feeling better, I was relating more to my brothers in arms than I was to the civilians."
Now, he's president of the Vietnam Veterans of America state council in Maine and keeps his medals, which include the Bronze Star and Air Medal, on the wall in his computer room.
"They see that and it sort of makes them feel better," Wallace said of younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. "They can ask about how I got them, I can explain to them how I got them. It makes them feel better because what I went through was maybe worse than what they went through."
Tallerdy traveled to Branson, Mo., last month for the first Operation Homecoming USA, a weeklong tribute to Vietnam veterans. The experience moved him profoundly.
"I think now," he said, "it's almost become prestigious to say that you're a Vietnam veteran."
Kerry wrote his own recommendations for his medals. He did not earn them.
man person who betrayed the military and his country can be elected to the Senate amazes me.
When you see a vet, thank him.
I always do.
And thank you too!
I do. My brother was an evac chopper pilot in '72.
I forgot to add, he HATED LBJ.
PING and thanks.
Had he gotten a paper cut, would that qualify him for yet another Purple Heart?
The Police should have ARRESTED that Pr*ck for Assaulting-with-Intent-to-cause-harm!
He should have Known that You Don't Ever, EVER throw a fist into a War Veteran's Face whne the Soldier has been fighting against men who hate Americans, Liberty & Capitalism!!!
"Vietnam veterans gaining back pride...."
This writer lost me before I got through his title. His imagination is remarkable.
A few months ago at the commissary, a gentleman of late middle age was bagging my groceries. As we walked out to my car, I noticed he was wearing a hat with pins that indicated service in Vietnam. I thanked him for his service to our country, and he stopped, apparently taken aback. "You're only the third person who's thanked me since I got back in 1969," he said. I'll never forget it.
Kerry didn't toss his medals, he tossed fake ribbons and medals. then as now, he was a fake, a fraud. I'm just as amazed as to how that person can be in senate. He belongs in prison. But, those are the type of people which make up the left in this country.
We had the pride, what we didn't have was the nations respect, now we do.(at least 51% anyway)
When you see a vet, thank him.
The reality is that VN vets have NOTHING to NOT be proud of. They served their country well. Where the real problem lies is with the POLITICIANS IN WASHINGTON, the libs who created VN, and then did NOT LET THE MILITARY FIGHT THE WAR. Those are the criminals, the bad boys, the people who SHOULD BE ASHAMED of what they did to VN vets...not the troops who did their dirty work, dying to allow them to play politcal chess with Viet Nam.
I know, I served then...
It's a shame that this many years later these men are finally feeling some sort of peace. Then we have the bitch Hanoi Jane planning to stir it all up again and contribute to making another generation of heroes feel unwelcome. I hope something happens to make her planned tour in March not materialize.
Thank You for your service!!!
I am a Beruit veteran. The first thank-you I received was after the first Gulf War. America's attitude towards the military changed during that war.
These men should be very proud of what they did for this Country. They were called to serve and did what so many people can never imagine. I get so angry when I read stories like this. The leftist scum has left such a sad legacy.