March 29 is National Vietnam Veterans Day

VA says Welcome Home and Thank You


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Friday, March 29 is National Vietnam Veterans Day.

Of the approximately 8,744,000 servicemen and women who served during the Vietnam era, approximately 3.4 million were stationed in the Southeast Asia theater, including flight crews based in Thailand, along with aviators and sailors in the adjacent South China Sea.

In a nation where less than one percent of the population has worn the uniform, military service is now recognized and appreciated as the act of service it is.

A grateful nation says Welcome Home and Thank You for your service.

We would like you to meet just two of the many thousands of Vietnam Veterans. Click on the links to read their complete stories.


Fred Judkins II

Fred Judkins II


A Second Homecoming Saves A Life

One in a series of weekly articles highlighting and celebrating Vietnam Veterans in advance of Vietnam Veterans Day 2019  

If it weren’t for the New England accent, you’d probably think Fred Judkins II was born in North Florida. It feels like he’s been here for years. If there is a meeting related to helping Veterans he’s there – like the monthly Flag breakfast meeting at Brown’s restaurant in Alachua, Florida.

If there is a focus group on initiatives to enhance the delivery of care to Veterans by the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center, Judkins is not only on it but recruiting additional members and contacting the director and key staff via email and social media whenever he has an idea that will help.

Vietnam

“One day I was scheduled to fly Cobra front seat but got pulled two hours before the mission because they needed a commissioned officer on the front line with the South Vietnamese for communications support,” Judkins recalled, “I heard over the radio that the pilots sent in my place were shot down in Laos. They were recovered, but that was just the nature of the war.”

Coming home was hard. Alcohol. Prison. Suicidal.

One day he heard banging on his door. His daughter Nicole and son Nathan had come to intervene. Nicole moved him home with her to Gainesville, Fla., the next morning.

“I was driving the other day and saw a Vietnam Veteran sticker on a car and beeped and they smiled and waved. I think it made both of us feel good. I have a Vespa 150 scooter. I was going down 39th Ave and I passed four Harleys,” Judkins said with a wink.


Tom Equels

Tom Equels


One in a series of weekly articles highlighting and celebrating Vietnam Veterans in advance of Vietnam Veterans Day 2019

A Renaissance Soldier Honors A Friend

Tom Equels is a busy guy. He serves as CEO of an immunology research and development company working hard toward finding a better way to treat solid tumor cancers.

He operates a 100-acre thoroughbred horse farm where he raises 17 of his own animals, including several newborns — and another 75 horses who board on his property.

And, when he’s not multitasking from those two, he oversees fundraisers for his local Catholic church, is a grandfather to three rambunctious boys and is an artist.

A rather accomplished artist in fact.



His oil paintings grace the walls of Our Lady of St. Teresa Catholic Church in Belleview, Florida, and numerous other public and church offices and places of worship as far away as the United Kingdom.

Vietnam

Equels graduated at the top of his flight training class and was given the choice to pick his type of helicopter and decided on Cobra gunships. He went to Vietnam in January of 1972 and was in-country through January 1973. He flew more than 300 missions. In the spring of 1972, he received word that his helicopter school classmate Wilson, along with his flight crew, went down in the aftermath of a North Vietnamese offensive that included five of their divisions. The flight crew was listed as missing until 2000.

Painting a tribute to a fallen friend

The painting above, “Lest We Forget,” is a beautiful tribute to a fallen friend whom Equels trained to fly with and served with during the same period in Vietnam. The 66-year-old artist and Purple Heart recipient thought it appropriate to share his work with former service members at The Villages VA Outpatient Clinic in Florida where he receives care.

The North Florida South Georgia Health Care System, like most VA medical centers across America is holding special ceremonies for National Vietnam Veterans Day.


Dan Henry, North Florida – South Georgia Veterans Health System Public AffairsDan Henry, Author, and photographer, North Florida – South Georgia Veterans Health System Public Affairs

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. John Murphy    

    Looking for the video, film, of the Vietnam parade in NYC. We started in Brooklyn walked over the Brooklyn Bridge turned left on Broadway to Battery Park. Then we went toa party on the Enterprise uptown. It was a wonderful day in the City. Does anyone know where this video is of that parade?

  2. Werter Arrington    

    TET68 – I was on duty as a ICU medic at 8th Field Hospital, 31 JAN 68 to 7 FEB 68 without sleep because of incoming wounded. The longest week of my life. It took me 50 years to get into the VA, but I am doing fine without them. Thanks to all that served, and welcome home.

  3. Richard Belardo    

    I am a Vietnam Era Veteran. It is terrible how we were treated during the war. I was told not to wear my uniform when I went on pass or on leave. Your welcome home is: “To little! To late “! God Bless and Protect Our Troops!

  4. Federico Soto Tapia    

    My name is Federico Soto Tapia I was with the 101st Airborne Division with B co. 1/502 and with Echo co. With the 81 mortars. From 11/69 to 12/70.

  5. charlie douglas johnson    

    i never know what to say. it was an unusual time. one you never forget.but i am glad i was not alone.the best we had was there.

  6. Kevin braend    

    I cannot imagine that Gaul of our Democratic party leaders to take down there P.o.w. flag at the Capitol and replace it with the transgender flag to protest president Trump. I will never vote Democratic again. It only shows to all veterans what these so called leaders really think of veterans.

  7. Awilda    

    Lost my dad after a battle against CANCER. MULTIPLE MYELOMA…connected to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. He did not want to go…was drafted. Struggled with alcoholism until he participanted in a Catholic Retreat (John 23) and converted. He made his First Communion at age 67, passed away 3 years after…less than 1 year after diagnosis. Today, everytime I pass by a car with a Vietnam Veteran Sticker or someone with Vietnam War Cap, shirt…I chino about my dad. I miss him.

    Good bless all those survivors.

    1. Awilda    

      Lost my dad after a battle against CANCER. MULTIPLE MYELOMA…connected to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. He did not want to go…was drafted. Struggled with alcoholism after war, until he participated in a Catholic Retreat (John 23) and converted. He made his First Communion at age 67, passed away 3 years after…less than 1 year after diagnosis. Today, everytime I pass by a car with a Vietnam Veteran Sticker or someone with Vietnam War Cap, shirt…I think about my dad. I miss him.

      Good bless all those survivors.

  8. kenneth s Rheault    

    one of the best units I served with was B-Troop 7/17 air cav as a MACV adviser being inserted with Vietnam troops
    and working with Cobra gunships and OH6s, in around firebase 5 and 6 KONTUM ; PLEIKU Thay was one hella
    unit and always had my back.

  9. Warren Oakley    

    Michael Hopkins, if you were a honorably discharged veteran you should be able to use the V.A. Check again and request for help from the V.A. if you are denied contact your congressman or congresswoman.

  10. tony planas    

    For those Heros I lost in combat as personal friends ;may they rein peace. welcome Home to allmy other brothers and sisters we dd what was asked of us.

  11. Tom Leopold    

    God bless every Vietnam Veteran. I served in 69 . 715 715th artillary.

  12. Robert Tomassetti    

    Thank you, excellent feel good e-mail.

  13. Norman Brown    

    When I served in Viet Nam in 1967, I was new to all that was happening around me but had the support of my fellow soldiers. Being a newbie was something that was given to all new arrivals and I accepted it which was sort of like a badge of honor. I was happy to serve my country with honor and dedication. The only thing I regret is that there were no parades, no one waiting at the airport giving us thanks for a job well done .We didn’t received all the accolades that other service personal received upon their arrivals coming back. I’m not looking for praise now, I just wish all the service personal who serve in Viet Nam were more appreciate.

  14. Robert Carey    

    From a fellow Vietnam Vet: WELL DONE and WELCOME HOME ALL !

  15. James Contarino    

    when I was in the Nam we flew many missions but the most remembered was the day we flew the Cambodian invasion to stop the Vietcong from a supply way to arm the fellow Vietcong. we lost ships . luckily mine made it through. I think god was with me that day. of course it was not noted the silver star we got for the mission as we flew over in violation so it was termed we received the metal for a mission in Vietnam. but I wish all my brothers who served around the country and overseas a big god bless you all for your service. James contarino sr.

  16. Michael Hopkins    

    Lost my Marine Viet bro-in-law vet to suicide. Thought is never too far away. Been on antidepressants 15 years. Tried to ‘join’ the VA for the cheaper meds. Received a letter from the Clinton administration that with my job, I made too much money to be allowed to join the VA. Still have the rejection letter. That was a lot of income ago. I’m 76 now living in Mexico. Can’t afford to live in the US.

    1. Bruce Branz    

      Years ago I went to my local VA in Coatesville, PA and presented my DD214. They took my photo and I received an ID card with my pic in about 2 weeks. All my drugs are purchased via VA at $8.- $15 mo.(for Eloquis). I am on social, have a 3 bedroom ranch with 1 acre, own 2 vehicles. We make enough to get by without having to move to “Mexico”.

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