Milnor, N.D., man chosen by VFW program medal recipientsThree times during his service in the Vietnam War, Doug Martin canceled plans to meet his wife in Hawaii for some R&R.
By: BY MIKE NOWATZKI FORUM COMMUNICATIONS CO. , The Jamestown Sun
Three times during his service in the Vietnam War, Doug Martin canceled plans to meet his wife in Hawaii for some R&R.
“I knew if I ever got out of there, I wouldn’t want to go back, so I just stayed put,” Martin said.
More than 40 years later, the Milnor, N.D., man is preparing to return to Vietnam — only, this time, he wants to go.
As a Purple Heart recipient, Martin was eligible for a Veterans of Foreign Wars contest that gives veterans the chance to go back to the Southeast Asian country.
Martin had been putting his name into the hat for about 10 years when it was finally drawn on Dec. 21 — his 64th birthday.
About 30 veterans will make the trip, out of more than 1,000 who applied, he said. Martin leaves for Vietnam on April 6 and will return April 19.
Among the sites he’ll see are Saigon and the demilitarized zone, two places he never visited during the 11 months and 10 days he spent in Vietnam.
However, he won’t see the combat zones in which he fought or the bridge where he sustained the wounds that earned him the Purple Heart.
“I’m probably better off not going to where I was,” he said during a recent interview at his sister’s home in Fargo. “I suppose my feelings from when I was there and especially where I was wounded — I don’t know if I want to get back there.”
Martin served on a 155-mm howitzer artillery battery during the war. He was about 20 days from coming home when a grenade exploded near him and two fellow Army soldiers guarding a bridge over the Kan Ta River in the darkness of night.
All three men survived. Martin couldn’t see out of his left eye for two days, and he still has a visible scar on his arm and pits on his neck from the blast.
Upon returning to U.S. soil, Martin lost touch with his three closest buddies from the war. But he has since found all three, and they stay in regular contact, he said.
The Cogswell, N.D., native and retired Bobcat factory worker had to wait 33 years after the war to receive his medals, which include the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
His wife, Patti, isn’t able to go on the Vietnam trip, but she’s sending a camera with him and will share his experiences through pictures, just as she did when he was fighting in the war.
“I mean, he’s waited for this for so long,” she said. “It’ll be a good experience.”
Martin isn’t the only area veteran to win a trip to Vietnam through the VFW contest. Wally Herman of Havana, N.D., made the trip with 14 other Purple Heart recipients last May.
Martin said he’s looking forward to seeing Vietnam again “just to compare it to when I was there.” “Nothing is the same, I know that,” he said. “Who knows? That bridge might not even be there anymore.”
Mike Nowatzki is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.