Leland veterans discuss Vietnam War on anniversary of signing of the Peace Accords

Thursday marks a somber day in U.S. history as the Vietnam War ended on January 27, 1973.

LELAND, NC (WWAY) — Thursday marks a somber day in U.S. history as the Vietnam War ended on January 27, 1973.

The war ended on this day when the US and North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords, but some troops remained in Vietnam for about two more months. Thousands of Americans remained working at the embassy in the South Vietnamese city of Saigon until it fell to Northern Vietnam.

Now, 49 years after the Peace Accords and more than 58,000 troops that never made it home, members of the Leland VFW Post 12196 reflect on the war.

Gerald Decker, a founding member of the post, served as a Second Class Quartermaster in the Navy. While he wasn’t an infantryman, he spent 17 months in the combat zone in the harbors of Vietnam.

“We’d stand up on the bridge every night and had something that was more horrible and more impressive than a Fourth of July show every night,” Decker said. “We would always comment to each other how sad it was to know that all those tracer bullets going back and forth, there was an 18-year-old at the end of each one of those.”

Roger Weigold served as a Spec 5 for the U.S. Army Security Agency, which is the predecessor for today’s Military Intelligence Corps.

“It’s a war that we should have never fought,” Weigold said.

The former intelligence officer says throughout the war, government, military, and civilian leaders believed two things.

“Number one that they were fighting for freedom and liberty. And that they were going to free these people for freedom and liberty,” Weigold said. “They didn’t know what the hell they were fighting for. They had no concept of what they were fighting for. So how are you going to go out there and ask somebody to lay his life on the line for something that he doesn’t understand or he doesn’t want?”

Though, the veterans hold no regrets for their service and are proud to have served their country.

“The politics of it, I just wasn’t into it and I believe most kids my age weren’t into it. We were just trying to survive, just trying to get through,” Decker said.

When they returned home, they were not greeted with a warm welcome.

Jim Koslosky served in the Navy as a Petty Officer Second Class in the latter part of the war.

“It was getting ugly, getting ugly back at home. In fact, they made me wear civilian clothes going home. I was by myself. If you were with a company of army or marines or something, that’s one thing, but they said no uniform. Just sneak your way back in,” Koslosky said.

Fortunately, Koslosky said he had a great support system in his friends who had also fought in the war. They were able to help one another after and reflect on their time spent at war.

For years, the veterans say people were not able to separate the warrior from the war.

“I’m asked all the time, do you veterans really like to be thanked for your service? And I say absolutely. It never gets old because to some extent we never heard anything for 25-30 years,” Decker said. “So yeah, it’s okay. I didn’t go to Canada. I didn’t get daddy to get me a deferment. I did my time and I served my country. yeah, you can say thanks for that.”

The Leland VFW Post 12196 meets every Tuesday morning at 9 am at the Port City Java in Brunswick Forest. All veterans are welcome.

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