Memories of an Air Force Vet

By Lynnette Hoffman

It's during this time of year that it is important to remember all veterans who have served our country and that includes veterans who served in Vietnam. My uncle, William Sorensen, grew up in Winlock during the '50s and '60s when it was an ideal small town, with no concerns of violence or war.

William graduated in 1964 from Winlock and decided to join the Air Force in 1965, a decision that would change his life forever. In 1968, William became a medevac medic for military personnel fighting in Vietnam; he would see things that no one should have seen.

I asked William, "What was the worst thing you saw?" He said, "A navy pilot dropped his rocket on a navy ship by accident. The ship had planes and fuel on board and immediately 50 people were burned beyond recognition." He continued, "The Air Force took control of the situation and all but one survived due to an incredible natural burn medication."

Casualties came in by the hundreds. Sometimes he was so busy that sleep wasn't afforded to him. Just trying to keep up was a daunting task. He said, "I didn't lose one man that I know of. They all went back to the states alive," a feat that was unheard of during the Vietnam War. William stated, "There were days we had casualties of 600-900, all of whom needed immediate care."

I wonder how he ever kept up, not just physically, but mentally too.

William spent six months helping Vietnam vets and then he came home. Our veterans often experienced cruelty when they came home. No veteran fighting for our country should experience what he did. On his trip home from his base in California, he asked someone for help to call home and no one would help him.

These soldiers were warned not to wear their military uniform because people would want to fight them.

The war was hard enough on these men, but to come home to what they did was even worse. They were treated like traitors. These were men who didn't want to go to war but fought for our country and deserved to be treated with respect. It was a war our government wanted, not our boys, and they suffered greatly because of this.

Finally, when Ronald Reagan took office, our Vietnam vets started to be treated with respect. Until that point the Vietnam vets were not given the help they needed to deal with PTSD and other wartime issues. For 20 years, these men lived in silence, not able to discuss their experience of the war and the horrific things they had seen. There were no ticker tape parades, no welcome home, just a very long line in the Veterans Administration.

Our Vietnam vets deserve to be treated with respect. Every time I see a man with a Vietnam vet hat on his head, I thank him because he endured not just the Vietnam War but discrimination once he came home. Next time you see a veteran, thank them for what they have done. It's because of these men that we have freedom of speech and the right to bear arms.

I personally want to thank all vets!

Thank you, Uncle William, for fighting for our freedoms. We are grateful to men like you who keep us safe.