A number of Facebook posts about Vietnam Veterans’ Day being marked March 29th brought another memory to mind. March 29, 1975 was the day the United States pulled out of the Embassy in Saigon, officially ceasing our military involvement. The South Vietnamese Army was defeated within about 30 days after.
Hubby and I both fall into the category of Vietnam Era veterans, not Vietnam veterans. Withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops had begun prior to the March 1975 date and those of us who were in varying stages of professional training realized we would not be considered ready for our first “field assignment” before the last troops were pulled out. Only those individuals who served “in country” or “in the theater” are actual Vietnam veterans. I was, however, in my professional training on March 29th. We had several South Vietnamese officers also in training with us. They were in class that morning and when we returned after lunch, they were gone. This was my first lessons in such matters and I have never forgotten it. None of us knew where they were sent, although Fort Chaffee in Arkansas was set up to receive many of the refugees and they may have gone there. A number of years later, I worked for a major (and then again when he was a colonel) who was in the Saigon Embassy and literally was one of the last American put onto a helicopter with the Embassy’s American flag clutched in his arms. He didn’t speak of it often and knowing what I do now, the chaos he would have witnessed would have stayed with him and no doubt difficult to describe.