America must reaffirm its commitment to those who served, and To "One Nation Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All"
By Vietnam Veteran Sgt. Larry Dawson, USMC
Woodville, Mississippi - It was the Spring of 1969, and the Vietnam War was at its height.
I was a senior in high school, back then, and getting ready to graduate. But on this particular afternoon, things weren't going very well for me.
Ms. Lewis, the senior English teacher at my segregated African-American public school in rural Wilkinson County, had caught me talking in class again - for the umpteenth time in recent months.
"Larry Dawson," she announced sternly, "I've asked you again and again to stop joking around in class. Come to the front of the room - right now!"
I obeyed, of course. Then she handed me a piece of chalk and ordered me to write a patriotic slogan 25 times on the blackboard.
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.
About one year later, I found myself lying in a bunker on the outskirts of Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam. We were taking incoming rockets that night, and like my fellow Marines, I was praying that none of them would land near me. I also watched the back-and-forth movement in the "Vill" across Highway 1 beyond the rows of concertina wire along our perimeter.
The PAVN constantly shelled and rocketed the huge Da Nang airbase ... in order to blow up American airplanes and kill American troops. On 8 April 1970, they killed one Airman and one Marine while damaging barracks and communication facilities.
Dear Lord, please help me get through this in one piece....
I survived my year-long tour of duty with the Marines in Vietnam.
But my return to "the World" for 30 days of liberty in 1971 was marred by the depressing sight of protesters at Los Angeles International Airport. They decried the war in Southeast Asia... and they demanded President Richard Nixon keep his 1968 campaign pledge to secure "an honorable end" to the war. Some protesters screamed insults at those of us in uniform, on that sad afternoon.
After receiving an honorable discharge in 1972, I returned to my small hometown in southern Mississippi, intent on going to school and resuming my life.