It took 15 years after Perry Stevens came home from the Vietnam war to be able to share his story.
Of the 26 in his platoon, he was one of six who left the battlefield unscathed.
“I came very close,” he recalls. “You ask so many times why someone is dead and why you didn’t die but you’ll never know.”
He sits at a desk, flipping through a series of photos he had taken while serving in Vietnam.
“That’s my squad,” Stevens explains as he continues to flip through photos. “The pictures aren’t hard to look at. What’s tough is when you see these guys faces and know you served with them but can’t remember their names.”
Stevens remembers the states they came from, at least. New York, Pennsylvania, Mississippi. There are few he can remember the names of, however.
Even so, Stevens says the pain of remembering can also be overwhelming.
“You don’t like to remember the people that were killed. Especially your friends.”
He and other Vietnam era veterans say they took so long to talk about the war because of the controversy surrounding it.
Robert Holtz served two tours in Vietnam, leaving there unwounded.
He says he had to help with the burial of his nephew, however, who was unlucky and had been killed in action during the Vietnam war.
“He had been in an ambush and they didn’t retrieve his body for 3 days,” Holtz says. “Do you know what happens to a body when its been sitting out in the heat? It turns to black and swells.”
Holtz was one of many Vietnam veterans who came home to public outcry. It was a reaction he wasn’t prepared for and didn’t expect.
“A woman ran up to me, spit in my face and called me a baby killer,” he remembers as he landed in a California airport at the time. “Hell, I was in shock. An American doing this? To an American serviceman?”
Holtz says he is still overwhelmed at the sight of the many names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
Including his nephew’s.
This is the first of a two part series on Vietnam veterans in the Concho Valley. The 2nd portion will be uploaded to this webpage on November 21st.