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COURTESY GARY RODD Gary Rodd served in Vietnam and was wounded three times during a battle on Palm Sunday. He kept bullet fragments removed from his body after that battle.

No celebration was held on Palm Sunday 1968 in Khe Sanh, a remote outpost in Vietnam with a name meaning red clay.

On the day before the Christian holy day associated with triumph, a Roman Catholic priest from France came through and administered last rites to Gary Rodd and his fellow Marines, before they headed out for combat in an area that had already been the setting of bloody battle for days.

Rodd survived the Palm Sunday battle, barely, with wounds in three places.

Today, he still carries with him - in a little plastic box - bullet fragments surgeons removed from his body.

"As a matter of fact, not many people get shot three times and survive. And also survive, you know, fragmentation from a grenade that landed like 10 feet from me," he said.

Rodd also carries unseen emotional scars from the way war protesters treated him when he returned to the states.

After convalescing for about six months, Rodd was assigned to a Marine Corps unit in Brooklyn that marched in a New York City ticker-tape parade to honor the Apollo astronauts who landed on the moon.

"As soon as you marched out, all you could hear from the crowd was, ‘Baby killers!' " he said. "And that made you feel rather bad because that was the farthest thing from the truth."

Area Vietnam veterans said they generally did not have the sort of homecoming that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have today, where the community turns out to honor them.

"Well, you didn't wear your Army uniform. Let's put it that way," said Michael Morey, who returned from Vietnam in early 1972.

"When I got back, I was a sergeant. I had a chest full of medals. I put them in my cedar chest and put them away," he said.

Demonstrators were marching outside Travis Air Force Base in California "in the wee hours of the morning" when the plane bringing him back to the states landed, said Edward Kenney, who served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam.

"And they put us in a reception hall and said, ‘If you don't have civilian clothes, buy them. You will not leave this facility in your uniform,'" he recalled.

Back in Glens Falls, Kenney agreed to speak to a class at St. Mary's Academy.

"What I was surprised about, I thought I was going to go there just to maybe relay what kind of life I had lived and how it was," he said. "They didn't want to know that. They wanted to know how it was that I would support the politics of the current administration and the previous administration that would send us over there to kill us. I almost backed out of that place."

By that point in 1969, a number of Glens Falls area residents had been killed in the war, including several St. Mary's graduates.

By the end of the war, 55 residents of Warren, Washington and Essex counties would have died in the war.

Kenney said he was discouraged as he walked, dressed in his military uniform, from St. Mary's on Warren Street, to Glen Street and then up Glen about 15 blocks to his parents' house on Webster Avenue, near Crandall Park.

A group of students hanging out at the intersection of Warren, Ridge and Glen Streets, where the roundabout is now, heckled him as he walked by.

"And they weren't happy at all. They were calling me some pretty rough names. So I went home, took my uniform off, hung it up, and that was it for quite some time," Kenney said.

"You remember back then, the country was torn apart," said Ned Foote, who is state president of Vietnam Veterans of America,

"And, unfortunately, it came down to taking that and blaming the veteran instead of blaming it on the politicians who actually control the war and what happened in the war," he said.

Vietnam veterans also faced stereotypes in the workplace and at college.

Tom Burns, who was drafted into the Army in 1967 and served in Vietnam from November 1968 to August 1969, returned to work at an accounting firm when he came home.

"And most of the senior partners were World War II veterans, probably," he said. "And they were kind of like, ‘Oh, you were in Vietnam. Were you on drugs?'"

Mike Hoag enrolled at Adirondack Community College in the fall of 1968, directly after returning from the war.

He was discouraged that Vietnam became a topic of discussion in just about every class.

"If I got up and said something, it wasn't very popular," he said. "So I never finished the semester. I just couldn't deal with all of the comments."

Even in veterans organizations at the time, veterans of previous wars tended to distance themselves from Vietnam veterans, an attitude that has changed over time, said Carl Fosco, who was drafted into the Army in 1969 and spent 14 months in Vietnam.

Vietnam veterans and their families have played a big part in the support of troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Foote.

"The good thing that I like to think Vietnam veterans have done is how troops are being treated today," he said. "And they're being welcomed home. And nobody is taking anything out on the veteran."

Tomorrow: The story of Arthur Brumagen, a popular Glens Falls Marine Corps recruiter who went to Vietnam to serve alongside his recruits and was killed in combat.

 

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