As I walked into his apartment that he shares with several others I noticed it was cluttered with clothing, food boxes and more. He smiled as I walked in. His hands appeared to be sore with arthritis, his body failing on him quicker than his mind. "I have a caretaker who watches after me," he was quick to say adding, "She is wonderful."
He held up his hands, “Take a picture of my rings,” he told me. As I slowly pushed the shutter closed he told me that one is for his tour in Vietnam and the second is his U.S. Army ring. “I love these,” he said with a grin.
Those very same hands and fingers likely grasped the American M16 Rifle, a gun that was prone to jamming on our troops. I wonder how many times he had to clear it in the midst of enemy fire? I did not want to ask those questions, but my imagination ran wild with thoughts of what those hands have been through. The sounds of bullet fire as he crawled on the ground or through rice fields.
U.S. Army General William Westmoreland commanded U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. He once stated, “I do not believe that the men who served in uniform in Vietnam have been given the credit they deserve. It was a difficult war against an unorthodox enemy.”
The rings that some Vietnam Veterans wear were not given to them by the military, but instead purchased by the Veterans who posses them. Many wear them as a reminder of the life they have today, verses the life they survived so many years ago. Others wear the rings to remind them of the friends they lost or the friends that saved their life only to be delivered back to the United States in a flag draped coffin. Sadly, the government did little to thank so many who went through so much and continue to have their own battles today.