U.S. Navy Anchor

U.S. Navy Anchor

U.S. Navy Anchor
U.S. Navy Anchor
He who controls the seas, controls the world.
All great civilizations understood this
and built their societies around seafaring culture,
whether it was militarily,
 for exploration or for trade.
 

Hail to those brave souls
Carrying our colors at sea
So that the man on the ground
May have one more night of peace

U.S. Navy Anchor

U.S. Navy Anchor

Act of valor led to medals, awards

Act of valor led to medals, awards

By Danielle McLean
Maynard —

Robert R. Lee, nicknamed the “The General,” served two tours in the Vietnam War as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army and part of the Army’s elite 11th Armored Calvary Regiment, known as the Black Horse Troopers, between 1968 and 1971. In his first tour he was part of the Army’s M-48 A3 Tank force and in the second, was a helicopter door gunner.

He has earned several prestigious medals including a Purple Heart, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with valor, an Army Accommodation Medal with valor, and numerous Air Medal Awards. He was a member of the Army Reserves for seven years after his time in Vietnam.
Lee has lived in Maynard for 40 years with his wife Angela Lee Cossette, working for the Digital Equipment Corporation for 20 years and then the U.S. Postal Service before retiring in 2008. He is still an active charter member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 116 out of Leominster.

What prompted you to enlist into the army?

 I originally got drafted. Then I was told I would stay home for another six months, so I changed my draft into an enlistment. That made it so for one extra year I could get specialty training instead of infantry training. Back in those days when you are 19 you are thinking, “I think I would rather be on a tank than an infantry soldier.” What did I know? Plus somebody mentioned going to Germany where all the girls are, so at 19 I enlisted for an extra year to make it three years and to get specialized training for armor.

What was the story behind your awards? What do they mean to you?

The Silver Star has always been something that has always meant a little extra to me, mainly because that day will always live in my memory as the day I probably should have got kicked in the butt instead of being pinned on a Silver Star.

Editor’s note: the Silver Star Medal is the third highest award for bravery in the U.S. military.

I did some things that I wasn’t sure I was capable of doing, but I knew I had to do and the outcome was the award. I was on an M-48 A3 tank and we were taking fire from both sides of us. Our tank got hit by a rocket propelled grenade and before I knew it the tank commander was down and severely wounded. Everyone was trying to communicate and we had our radios blown out by a rocket-propelled grenade.

I grabbed my personal weapon and I got help. While I was running to the next tank to let them know we’d been hit I stumbled onto an [enemy] bunker complex that was right in front of me. I decided to start shooting into it.

As the story goes, the guys in the helicopter were watching me with a set of binoculars saying, ‘who is that idiot playing John Wayne?’ For many years I tried to not play that in my mind because I know lots of people that got shot up and wounded that day, including myself. But then I came to the determination that it is something I should be proud of and I am proud of. So I decided to start talking about it and I found that talking about it brought me to a different place in my life.

We all love our country and we all love our brothers and each year around this time on Memorial Day we all remember the ones that didn’t come back.

Can you describe the bond you share with your fellow Vietnam veterans?

The bond is unbelievable. Yearly, we do a major reunion, last year in Orlando. We are all in our mid-60’s now and not a lot of them wanted to go to Orlando, but 1,200 of us showed up there to have dinner together and break bread and remember those that didn’t come back.

The reunion comes up once a year, this year it will be in Indianapolis. But we’ve been in all the major cities across the states. We’ve had 37 actual reunions and it took about 15 years for the thing to get going. Then 15 years later a lot of people still didn’t want to get back into reunion mode, but little by little a couple of guys, then a couple other guys come and are honored. We have guest speakers and we get together and have our time together. We are united.

How important is it for people to think about and honor our veterans?

I hope people don’t forget the sacrifice that these men make. I know I won’t.

How important is it for veterans like yourself to fight and stand up for this country?

In my mind it will always be America first and love of life and the freedom that we share because of all those guys and it will just always go on. The day I don’t see a Memorial Day parade, I hope I’m not here.

Decades after end of Vietnam War, US begins Agent Orange clean-up

By NBC News staff and wire reports

HANOI, Vietnam — Nearly four decades after the end of the Vietnam War, the United States and Vietnam on Thursday began cleaning up the toxic chemical Agent Orange on part of Danang International Airport.

The U.S. military sprayed up to 12 million gallons of the defoliant onto Vietnam’s jungles over a 10-year period during the war, and the question of compensation for the subsequent health problems is a major post-war issue.

Respiratory cancer and birth defects among both Vietnamese and U.S. veterans have been linked to exposure to Agent Orange.

Thursday marked the first time Washington has been involved in cleaning up Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Old enemies team up to battle Agent Orange

The U.S. government is providing $41 million to the project which will reduce the contamination level in 73,000 cubic meters of soil by late 2016, the ruling Vietnam Communist Party’s mouthpiece Nhan Dan daily said.

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear said at a ceremony at the former American air base at Danang that the project showed that the two countries were “taking the first steps to bury the legacies of our past,” Voice of America (VOA) reported.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded contracts to two U.S. companies to work on the project along with Vietnam defense ministry officials, the U.S. Embassy said.

Danang in Vietnam’s central region is a popular tourist destination. During the Vietnam War, that ended in 1975, the beach city was used as a recreational spot for U.S. soldiers.

Return to Vietnam: Meeting a formerly faceless foe

Agent Orange was stored at Danang air base and sprayed from U.S. warplanes to expose northern communist troops and destroy their supplies in jungles along the border with Laos.

Over the next decade, other former U.S. air bases that stored Agent Orange are due to be cleaned up as well, VOA reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

“My Gentlemen” – Ann Margret

Richard, (my husband), never really talked a lot about his time in Viet Nam, other than he had been shot by a sniper.  However, he had a rather grainy, 8 x 10 black and white photo he had taken at a USO show of Ann Margret with Bob Hope in the background that was one of his treasures.A few years ago, Ann Margret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. Richard wanted to see if he could get her to Sign the treasured photo so he arrived at the bookstore at 12 o’clock for the 7:30 signing.

When I got there after work, the line went all the way around the bookstore, circled the parking lot, and disappeared behind a parking garage.  Before her appearance, bookstore employees announced that she would sign only her book and no memorabilia would be permitted.Ann Margaret
Richard was disappointed, but wanted to show her the photo and let her know how much those shows meant to lonely GI’s so far from home.. Ann Margret came out looking as beautiful as ever and, as second in line, it was soon Richard’s turn.

He presented the book for her signature and then took out the photo.  When he did, there were many shouts from the employees that she would not sign it.  Richard said, “I understand. I just wanted her to see it.”

She took one look at the photo, tears welled up in her eyes and she said, “This is one of my gentlemen from Viet Nam and I most certainly will sign his photo. I know what these men did for their country and I always have time for ‘my gentlemen.”

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With that, she pulled Richard across the table and planted a big kiss on him.  She then made quite a to-do about the bravery of the young men she met over the years, how much she admired them, and how much she appreciated them.  There weren’t too many dry eyes among those close enough to hear.  She then posed for pictures and acted as if he were the only one  there.

Later at dinner, Richard was very quiet.  When I asked if he’d like to talk about it, my big, strong husband broke down in tears.. ”That’s the first time anyone ever thanked me for my time in  the Army,” he said.

That night was a turning point for him. He walked a little straighter and, for the first time in years, was proud to have been a Vet. I’ll never forget Ann Margret for her graciousness and how much that small act of kindness meant to my husband.

I now make it a point to say ‘Thank you’ to every person I come across who served in our Armed Forces.  Freedom does not come cheap and I am grateful for all those who have served their country.

If you’d like to pass on this story, feel free to do so. Perhaps it will help others to become aware of how important it is to acknowledge the  contribution our service people make.

“The country is behind you 50 percent”         – Bob Hope to the troops, Christmas Tour Vietnam 1966

Stay tuned for more about Bob Hope and the USO Tours in Vietnam.  – J. Barry