- March 29th is National Vietnam Veterans Day. Those of us who grew up in the Vietnam era will never forget the nightly barrage of body counts, protests and vitriol reported by Huntley & Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, et al in the late '60s and early '70s. It was a dark time in our nation's history. But the men and women who served in Vietnam deserved better than the hatred and disrespect they received when they returned from the horrors of war.
My father and law partner, Lt Col (Ret) A.D. "Jake" Jacobson was one of those warriors. He served in the US Air Force for 24 years, rising from buck private (before the rank of Airman was used) to buck sergeant, selected for the Aviation Cadet Program, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, attended Radio Operator school, Navigator training and Undergraduate Pilot Training. He's one of a few Air Force officers entitled to wear three sets of wings. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1975.
Dad volunteered to go to Vietnam. As he explained to my mom, "This is what they've trained me for. I can't not go." Mom, ever loyal and supportive, understood. So while she stayed in Tucson, AZ with me (8th grade) and my sister (9th grade), Dad spent all of 1970 flying combat missions over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in an F-4 Phantom II. 134 combat missions. He got reassigned from Da Nang to 5th Air Force in Saigon after six months, but still went back regularly and flew combat missions. Five Air Medals, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star. He made it home, though.
We picked him up at Tucson International Airport right before Christmas. He was wearing civilian clothes (I found out later it was required because of all the hostility Americans had been showing to their own warriors). He had a surprise for me: he'd bought a Honda 70 motorbike and had it shipped home as "motorcycle parts". We had a ball putting that thing together, and I rode the heck out of it for the next year and a half, until we PCS'd to Venezuela.
Dad has pretty much retired from the active practice of law. He got his bachelor's degree and went to law school after he retired from the Air Force and spent another whole career doing what he intended to do before taking a valiant 25-year detour into the Air Force. Vietnam changed him in some way. Still my dad, but different. War does that to people. Now we call it PTSD - mild, but present. He only completely lets his guard down in the company of other warriors - sometimes including me, the 30-year Colonel. He got to fly a P-51 on his 80th birthday, and I've quite literally never seen him happier than when he talked about it. I'm very proud of him. Dad - Happy Vietnam Veterans Day.