Naval Submarine Base in Groton honors Vietnam War era veterans
Groton ― Addressing more than 20 fellow Vietnam War era veterans and their family members, plus Naval Submarine Base personnel, retired Navy Major Daniel M. Eddinger said Wednesday that Vietnam veterans “have lived a long long time with a little black cloud over their head” but stood up to say: never again.
“You don’t have to worry about that cloud over your head anymore because it’s not there,” said Eddinger, region commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart and a two-time Purple Heart recipient. “We’re proud to have been servers of the United States Armed Forces.”
Eddinger and three other Vietnam War era veterans spoke at a ceremony the sub base held for National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which occurs every March 29 as the result of former President Donald Trump signing the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are 6.4 million living Vietnam veterans. Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the deactivation of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam and when the last combat troops left South Vietnam.
“To unwarranted and unfair effects, our nation’s service members returned from Vietnam to a deafening silence,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement Wednesday. “We can never undo the damages that occurred fifty years ago, however we can commit to righting the wrongs.”
On Thursday at 11 a.m., he is attending a public Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting at its facility in Rocky Hill.
Veterans at the sub base ceremony were each given a gift bag that included a lapel pin with “Vietnam War veteran” and a bald eagle, wheat and stars on one side, and “A grateful nation thanks and honors you” on the other.
Eddinger said when he joined the Army in 1965, he was doing everything he could to get away from the Nebraska dairy farm on which he was raised ― which meant the population of his unincorporated community went from 36 to 35.
After serving at Fort Myer, Va., he was sent to Vietnam in 1967 and was wounded in the Tet Offensive. After 12 years enlisted, Eddinger went into the officer corps, retiring as a major in 1992 after 26 years of service.
Thomas Brown enlisted in the Marine Corps a day after his June 25, 1967 graduation from Norwich Technical High School and was stationed in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang. Within a month, the Tet Offensive began, and Brown was on the first helicopter that landed in the city of Huế.
He was sent to be a forward observer, calling in artillery, after another FO was killed. After the Tet Offensive, he went back to being a mortarman.
Brown later picked a job in the civic action program, training South Vietnamese villagers to protect their village. He was wounded going after an enemy mortar and discharged from the Marines in 1969.
Dennis Lisee said at age 18, he was a “peace-loving hippie” who was studying computers in college but knew his number would be coming up, so he went to a recruiter and joined the Air Force. He didn’t end up getting a computer-related assignment, but got orders to the Security Forces and then the Honor Guard.
For the latter, he was assigned to the White House and went to the funerals of President Lyndon B. Johnson, President Harry Truman and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Lisee teared up when he recalled being at the White House for its largest dinner to date: when prisoners of war were welcomed in 1973. He went on to serve in the Army National Guard and Reserves.
John Waggoner, a recent Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame inductee who has been heavily involved in the Norwich Area Veterans Council, talked about his experiences in the Navy after enlisting in May 1965 and going onboard a destroyer.
After first going to Guantanamo Bay, he was off to the North Atlantic, looking for Russian submarines. The ship was headed to the Mediterranean Sea when Israeli forces attacked the USS Liberty in the Mediterranean on June 8, 1967. Thirty-four people were killed and 171 injured. When Waggoner’s ship hit Malta, he saw the Liberty being repaired there.