March 29 was National Vietnam War Veterans Day. V Teamer Jerry B. shares his story.
From time to time, we encounter individuals who leave a profound and meaningful impact on us. Vietnam veteran and Business Group Client Services V Teamer Jerry B. is one such person.
National Vietnam War Veterans Day was March 29, and we were proud to be saluting veterans like Jerry and the 2.7 million American military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifices while serving in Vietnam from 1964 to 1975. Although we can't rewrite history, we can recognize and pay homage to those who served. Jerry and his fellow soldiers deserve nothing less.
Here’s a glimpse of Jerry’s courageous story as we honor him and countless other Vietnam veterans.
College-bound. Or not.
When he was turning 18, Jerry was thrilled about the prospect of going to college in the fall. He’d just graduated high school and couldn’t wait to learn which colleges had accepted him. But instead of a college acceptance letter, he was asked to report to AFEES (Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Stations). Jerry and his mother were confused and assumed there had been a mix-up. They thought that he certainly couldn’t have been drafted because he was going to attend college.
The next morning, Jerry and his mother reported to AFEES. The next thing he knew, Jerry was given a haircut and uniforms, then placed on a train to boot camp in Great Lakes, IL.
Jerry’s aspirations for a college education were put on hold. Due to the number of casualties in Vietnam, all Armed Forces divisions needed men to get ready for battle.
A different kind of graduation.
Next up for Jerry was 14 weeks of boot camp and an additional two weeks of specialized training in Palms, CA. A graduation was held in Great Lakes and was attended by his parents. He recalls the emotion of it all, putting them back on the train to Chicago and believing they’d never see each other again.
That same night, Jerry left for Vietnam. Upon arrival, he was provided with malaria pills, and two weeks later he was shipped to “the bush” – the area of combat.
“I was trained for Navy intelligence. I was now in the bush and three days later I was in my first fire fight and I went into shock. It was different than training. I mean, I’d never seen anything like it with the shooting and fighting all night. I thought I was in another world,” he said.
Jerry’s mother watched Walter Cronkite on the evening news every day, fearing that she’d hear that her son was among the casualties. Thankfully, his name was never read. She not only feared for Jerry, but for his two brothers who were also fighting in the war. Thankfully none died in combat, although one brother did eventually pass away from the effects of Agent Orange.
Not a hero’s homecoming.
As the longest war in American history, resulting in nearly 60,000 deaths and 350,000 casualties, the fervor for this time in our history remains. Most Vietnam War veterans were met with disdain upon returning home. Jerry recalls landing at LAX airport and dashing for the men’s room to change into civilian clothing and discard his military garb.
To this day, Jerry admittedly struggles with the perceptions the public may hold towards those who were called to duty at that time. Fifty years later, Vietnam veterans are revered, honored and respected by the public. However, Jerry and his fellow soldiers don’t always see it that way. They live with the stigma and sadness of those dark years. Thanking veterans for their service may help to bring them some peace.
Circuitry brings him joy.
Jerry plunged himself into his work to cope post-war. When he reflects on his time in Vietnam, he fights to hold back tears. But he feels blessed for his Verizon career and the experiences he’s had on the V Team.
Jerry is obsessed with all things telecom and engineering circuitry, saying that his mind naturally works as though he is immersed in circuitry. He finds that he can troubleshoot technical issues easily. The focus and attention that he has committed to his job have gotten him through the darkest of times and helps him stay motivated to keep moving forward.
“Working in the telecom business at Verizon is what saved my life. I dove into my work and I liked it. I love what I do.”
Please let Jerry and his fellow Vietnam veterans know how much you appreciate their years of service. Perhaps take a moment of silence for all those who were left behind. We should be honoring andOur veterans deserve our thanks. thanking veterans for their sacrifice and service.