CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – After 50 years, the Vietnam War remains engrained in our minds and will forever be part of our nation’s history. For the veterans who served during this era, the conflict is deeply rooted within them. Each veteran experienced the war in a unique, individual way; no two stories are the same.
On Sept. 20, 2013, approximately 200 veterans returned to their former unit, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, to share those stories with the new generation of warfighters during a reunion ceremony held at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
One of the mottos of the Marine Corps, “Once a Marine always a Marine,” was seen in action as active duty Marines with 7th ESB interacted and shared stories with the veterans.
For many of the Marine veterans, memories of the war are still very fresh.
“I can still remember it like it was yesterday,” said Norbert Johnson, a retired combat engineer with Delta Company, 7th ESB. “In Vietnam we ran mine sweeps and construction work every single day. When we first got there we just had a sand-bag bunker and four walls. It was much different then. What these Marines experience now, they will never forget, and they will always share a special camaraderie.”
The reunion included a full tour of the new barracks, a display of current issued gear, equipment demonstrations by Bridge Company and a luncheon in honor of the Vietnam veterans.
Throughout the tour, several veterans recalled their own time spent in the service.
“I was wounded in Vietnam in October of 68,” recalled William Keyes, a retired combat engineer with Delta Co., 7th ESB. “We were completing our mine sweep for the day. We were on our way back to our company when another unit, who had an operation around that area, asked for our assistance in sweeping for mines. When we went up to check the booby traps I ran into one and my radio man, Mike, was behind me when it went off. Mike died two weeks later. After I got out of Vietnam, for a long time, I had a guilt complex over that experience. But our experiences in Vietnam have helped the Marines of today, I think. The Marines are given better mental health treatment than what we dealt with. I think Vietnam veterans brought to light the importance of treating the situation that these Marines go through even now.”
As the day progressed and stories of past times and current experiences were shared, the veterans noticed one thing. Time have changed, but the essence and fighting spirit of the Marines have not.
“As I look around I’m seeing the same traits and the same characteristics of my buddies 40 years ago,” said Lampich. “It’s refreshing to see that. I don’t see much of a difference [in the Marines] other than they got younger and I got older.”
As the veterans were bused out, dozens of Marines lined the streets to show their respect for the veterans who have sacrificed for our country and shared their life-changing stories.