So there you have it. Ground truth from those who've been on the ground ... in both wars!
...these graying soldiers and the other Vietnam veterans serving here offer a unique perspective. They say they are more optimistic this time: They see a clearer mission than in Vietnam, a more supportive public back home and an Iraqi population that seems to be growing friendlier toward Americans.
"In Vietnam, I don't think the local population ever understood that we were just there to help them," says Chief Warrant Officer James Miles, ... who flew UH-1H Hueys in Vietnam ... And the Vietcong and North Vietnamese were a tougher, more tenacious enemy, he says. Instead of setting off bombs outside the base, they'd be inside. "I knew we were going to lose Vietnam the day I walked off the plane," says Miles. ... Not this time. "There's no doubt in my mind that this was the right thing to do."
"There was a lot more action in Vietnam than there is here," says Chief Warrant Officer Herbert Dargue. ... "There's no such thing as a POW,"referring to the terrorists' penchant for executing Westerners. The enemy in Iraq has "absolutely no value" for life, Dargue says... Miles says the biggest difference he saw was that, over time, Iraqi civilians grew more positive toward U.S. forces.
1st Sgt. Patrick Olechny ... says the most important difference to him is the attitude of the American public. "Vietnam was an entirely different war than this one," he says. ... Now, "the people in the United States respect what the soldiers are doing."
Chief Warrant Officer DeWayne Browning , recently back from two weeks of R&R in the USA, says he was overwhelmed by the reception he got stateside: More than a hundred people met the airplane to help the soldiers and wish them well. "I can't tell you what, as a Vietnam vet, that means to me," he said.
For the Vietnam veterans, this is not a trip down memory lane ... At its peak the Vietnam War had more than three times as many on the ground as the roughly 140,000 in Iraq today. The new Army that these vets serve in is all volunteer. "With 36 years of perspective, I look at this one a whole lot differently than I look at that one," says Chief Warrant Officer Randy Weatherhead ... Compared to Vietnam, "this is probably more difficult. In the big picture, this is probably more important." In Iraq, one of his proudest activities is volunteer work at a nearby children's home.
Retired from the US Air Force after more than 20 years of service. Now working as a contractor for various government agencies.