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Veterans reflect on the human toll of the war

Posted: September 26, 2013 9:47 a.m.
Updated: September 26, 2013 9:47 a.m.

American Legion riders lead the trailer carrying the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Vietnam Memorial Wall into the Santa Clarita Valley on Wednesday. The wall goes on display Thursday evening at 6 p.m. Signal photo by Dan Watson

SANTA CLARITA - The replica of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall that goes on display this evening contains all 58,286 names engraved in the original wall in Washington, D.C., a stark reminder of the war’s human toll.

“In my unit, we lost 83 pilots and door gunners in the four years we were there,” said retired helicopter pilot Thomas Whitlock Jones of Canyon Country. “The year I was there was the only year no pilot got killed.”

“We ended up with 11,000 helicopters that were used in the Vietnam era and of that, I think 2,400 were shot down.”
“Our battalion lost 47 guys (one) day, said retired Army Sgt. William “Bill” Reynolds of Valencia.

“You don’t hear about that in these wars today. I mean, there might be a helicopter crash where, you know, 10 guys at most are lost. But not 47 in one day.”

”The casualties that are on the wall: there’s 57,000 on the wall, but there’s been 100,000 to commit suicide since,” said retired artillery mechanic Darrell “Bud” Lantzy of Castaic.

“As far as Vietnam, I think it’s still a tremendous pain in many soldiers’ hearts as to how we got there, why we got there, what the end result was — but probably more important was how many soldiers we lost,” said retired Marine R.J. Kelly.

“Fifty-thousand soldiers is a lot on a war that was never won.”

Some comfort can be found in the fact that soldiers who were spat upon and reviled upon their return from war are now receiving recognition for heroism, said some of veterans interviewed by The Signal.

“You’ve got people here who have got belated awards and medals, and they didn’t really talk about it — but now that they’re getting recognition for having fought, people are opening up more,” said Kelly. “I haven’t thought about it but lately have been opening up more, been doing more research as I have more time.”

“I think that it’s great that the Vietnam vet is being acknowledged for the sacrifice that he made but, you know, there is no giving any purpose to it,” said Lantzy.

Having the wall come to their home town is a unique experience, local veterans agreed.

“(It’s) a real big deal to me,” said Reynolds. “Night time is the best time for Vietnam veterans to visit the wall because it’s so serene and the lighting makes it so surreal. I always suggest to friends: If you’re going to go to the wall, go at night time.”

“It was just amazing,” Kelly said about seeing the traveling wall when it was in Palmdale. “It was just amazing looking for names you thought you might recognize.”

“I’ve been to the wall in Washington, D.C., a number of times and I’ve been to the traveling wall when it was out in Palmdale, and it’s always an emotional thing because you realize that your name could easily be on that wall,” said Reynolds.




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