The first major engagement of the Vietnam War was fought 52 years ago this month in the la Drang Valley.
In this Veterans Day episode of the StoryCorps podcast, we hear three stories from and about men who served in Vietnam. The stories tell about what happened while they were deployed overseas as well as the battles they fought once they returned home.
The first interview is about a group of men whose work in Vietnam is rarely discussed. Gary Redlinski and Glenn Freundt (pictured above in the audio player) were assigned to the Army’s Graves Registration Service. This unit’s job was to ensure that the remains of American soldiers killed in battle were returned safely to their families in the United States.
The next story is about coming home. Tom Geerdes returned to the United State in 1971 following his tour in Vietnam where he served as an Army medic. As he told his daughter Hannah Campbell (pictured above with her father), it wasn’t until a chance occurrence about a decade later, while he was doing flooring work inside a Sears store, that he was able to begin healing.
We end the podcast with the story of Leonard Matlovich (pictured at left on the cover of a 1975 Time magazine). A decorated veteran who served two tours in Vietnam and was awarded both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, Tech. Sgt. Matlovich was discharged from the military in 1975 after the Air Force claimed he was “unfit” to serve. The reason? He had decided challenge the military’s ban on gay service members by coming out.