Recently, we told you about the Veterans Roundtable held by the Americans in Wartime Museum during our annual Open House. Today–Veterans Day 2014–we recount some of the stories shared by our prestigious panel of veterans. We thank them and our panel moderator, Ken Bassett of the Prince William County Public Schools, for their participation. Most importantly, we thank them and all of their fellow veterans for their service to America.
LTC Daniel Walton was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron during WWII. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross.
“I flew 28 missions as a B-17 bombardier. We did not fly on D-Day but we sat by our radios and listened to the chaos. The next day, our 36 planes flew and all day, we dropped bombs. That time is written in my brain.”
Colonel Barney Barnum, Jr. is a retired USMC officer who received the Medal of Honor for valor during the Vietnam War.
“I remember hearing about the Kennedy assassination. We were in Japan at the time and we thought it was a communist hoax to destroy our morale.
When we realized it was true, we wondered what was going to happen to the world.”
Major Bill Peters served as a rifle platoon commander, executive officer and assistant adjutant with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines in Vietnam from 1969-1970.
“I was in Da Nang in 1969. We would listen to Armed Forces Radio whenever we could. One day we heard all of this static on the radio, and we thought the commies had taken down the radio tower. Then we heard this voice come through the static saying, ‘We did it. We landed on the moon.’
Later Major Peters was present for one of the great Bob Hope USO shows. The guest that day was Neil Armstrong. When he came out, Major Peters said, “The crowd went wild. He walked over to the wounded and shook their hands. They wouldn’t let him go.” At first, Armstrong got choked up and couldn’t speak to the crowd. When he finally came back to the microphone, Major Peters recalls Armstrong saying, “I’ve been to the moon, I’ve met the President, but I’ve never seen so much emotion as there is here today.”
Colonel Gary West is a former USAF Fighter pilot with over 3,000 hours in the F-15, F-16, and F-5.
Colonel West served in Desert Storm. He recalls his F-15 group flying into Germany where “a grand welcome was waiting for us.” The pilots got a few private minutes with their wives, then a large crowd cheered their arrival. “I was thankful for a country that was thankful to you.” However, he said he couldn’t help but think of the Vietnam veterans who did not get the same welcome. His advice, whenever and wherever you see a Vietnam veteran, just say to them, “Welcome home.”
Colonel Douthard R. Butler is a Vietnam veteran. He was called to active duty in August 1955, and remained in service for 30 years, retiring as a Colonel in 1985.
Colonel Butler recalled the difficult days of serving in Vietnam and the equally tough return home. “In July 1966, I had been putting my life on the line for our country. At the same time, this was when anti-war demonstrations were very heavy and there were people spitting on you if you were in the military.” He said the mistake we made as a nation in Vietnam: “They sent us off to war and they left the country at home.” He praised the nationwide support we see today for American troops.
Share Your Own Story
If you would like to share your own story of wartime service, contact Greg Pass, our Wartime Oral History Project Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can tell you about opportunities to record and preserve your story on video for future generations.