Shore celebrates Veterans Day

Vietnam Veterans discuss their time at war and home

Jamie Watt and Isabella Saponaro

On Wednesday, November 6, 2019, Shore Regional High School held their 6th annual Veterans Day Celebration. The Shore Regional community was visited by veterans ranging from those who fought in WWII to current soldiers. The celebration started  in the RTO where the veterans were greeted by student ambassadors from student council and enjoyed breakfast and performances by chorus and the JROTC. The Veterans then did a walk around the school while the smiling faces of the Shore Regional community lined the hallways, waving flags. The students and veterans then migrated into the auditorium where each veteran was announced by name as well as their service and rank. After this presentation, the seniors broke into different rooms with about 5 veterans per room, in order to get a more specialized experience with the veterans.

 In the RTO seniors enjoyed a presentation by Vietnam Veterans: Joe Leone, Don Davidson, Ernie DiOrio, Bob Jacobs, Jerry Kelly, Bob Hopkins, and Russ S., who each shared their experiences during the war. The Vietnam War was considered the “youngest war”, with the average age of a soldier being 19, soldiers ranged from ages 15 to 72. The conditions of the war were brutal, the temperature was anywhere from 90-105 degrees, and there were 365,000 soldiers who were reported as wounded. 

Bob Jacobs spoke specifically about his experience with the draft. Jacobs was a high school history teacher when he received a letter from the President informing him that he was drafted into the Vietnam war. The way the draft worked was that ping pong balls with days of the year were drawn and men were called into the military based on their birthday. He then played a “game” with the group of seniors to see who would have been drafted.

Unfortunately there was a mix up and the veterans were not able to bring in a display of some equipment used in the war as expected, but were sure to answer any questions the students may have had about it. Don Davidson explained “everything we took was exactly what you need”. Some of the supplies they brought were radios, ammunition, and vacuum dried food, which they heated up with C4. But, they were not allowed to bring any toiletries, Russ S. explained “you wanted to smell like the jungle”, this helped the opposing side from spotting the US troops.

The veterans had three main takeaways from their time at war. The first was leave no man behind, and the importance of POW MIA (prisoner of war, missing in action). The second thing they brought back with them was PTSD. “PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal event,” said Bob Hopkins, “Because of what happens you can’t think,” you “don’t process it”.  The third is Agent Orange: a poison used to clear the trees in Vietnam. Agent Orange has been connected to cancer and gene disorder. The effects of the chemical can be passed on through seven generations affecting the families of the veterans for years. Millions of people were affected- the government at one point said anyone “with boots on the ground” was exposed.

Returning home was a struggle for many veterans. There was “no decompression,” said Don Davidson. “You could be shot at and be home within 72 hours”. In addition they were not welcomed home with open arms. Many family members did not trust those returning because of the backlash the war had in the US. “We welcomed ourselves home” said Don Davidson, “my wife greeted me in the airport with a handshake”. The veterans do not receive a lot of thanks for the sacrifices they made, so next time you see a Vietnam Veteran, please take the time to personally thank them. One small gesture means more to them then you realize.