More than four decades after they returned home from war, Vietnam veterans received thanks for their service from Troy University during the Trojans’ football game against Coastal Carolina.
During the annual Military Appreciation game Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Sound of the South’s halftime show featured the Walk of Heroes, as Vietnam veterans walked across the field alongside active-duty military members. Each branch was accompanied by its service song.
For veterans like retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Charlie Dunn, the experience stood in contrast to how they were treated by the general public decades ago.
“It means a whole lot to me, and I can’t really describe it,” Dunn said. “When we came back from Vietnam, they treated us like we were dogs. Now, to see something like this, it’s just a good feeling.”
The day began with a book signing by TROY alumnus and Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins, and the pregame festivities included a military enlistment ceremony led by retired Marine Col. John Schmidt, a giant flag covering the field during the National Anthem, and a flyover by the Trojan Warrior Spirit C-130.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine, and an event like today brings back a lot of memories, shows what a great nation this is, what a patriotic nation we are, and it reignites that spirit again,” Schmidt said. “I saw that (negative) attitude when we came back from Vietnam, but I also was happy to see that spirit turn in the Gulf War, and it’s never turned back since.”
It added up to an expression of gratitude from the University and its supporters to the veterans.
“It’s an extremely great honor,” said retired Marine Sgt. Alan Farmer, who served under Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr., Chancellor of Troy University.
Farmer said he’s also seen the public perception of veterans change considerably since his time in Vietnam.
“I’ve been coming to the Military Appreciation game for six or seven years,” he said. “Dr. Hawkins has honored us at a high level every time we’ve showed up. I currently live in a military town in Oklahoma, and the recognition we get there is also extremely high. We had a 20-to-30-year lapse in recognition for our service, but it’s materializing every day.”