Vietnam veterans reunite and honored for their service, 50 years since US withdrew troops from overseas

Published: Oct. 20, 2023 at 11:33 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Today, over 50 years since the last American troops withdrew from Vietnam, US veterans came together in Tucson to catch up on life after their time in the service.

One veteran, Colonel Bob Certain, was commissioned to the Air Force in 1969. He followed in his brother’s footsteps, who served as a pilot. Bob served as a navigator.

He remembers the last years of the war like it was yesterday.

In December of 1972, Certain and others were informed that their weekend missions had been canceled, which meant one of two things: they were going home or to war.

Unfortunately, the day of going back home had to wait.

“We had gotten to the target, we opened the bomb bay doors, we were a few seconds away from the bombs releasing, and we were struck by the shrapnel basically, of a missile that blew up nearby,” Certain said.

“And it was the day we were supposed to go home. That was a real bummer.”

Luckily, Certain ejected himself out of the burning B-52 and fell 20 thousand feet in the sky before activating his parachute. However, he landed in a village where he was taken prisoner.

It wasn’t until the spring of 1973 that he was able to come home – he had been held prisoner for a total of 101 days.

After returning home, though, from the months of October to April, Certain started to experience stress and anxiety. The timing aligns almost perfectly with the months when he was held captive.

Certain was struggling with Post Traumatic Stress.

“The Post Traumatic Stress issue was the themes of that final mission, when those themes occur in modern life, then my choices for how to deal with it, were thematically similar to what I have done long, long ago,” he said.

Certain looked to writing to help get his thoughts out.

Publishing a book detailing his time in the Air Force to his life after, Certain helped other veterans struggling with PTSD when they returned home. Today, he serves on the board of directors for the Distinguished Flying Cross Society.

However, PTSD wasn’t the only issue soldiers had to face when the war ended. Support for troops coming back home from Vietnam War was hard to come by.

Colonel Marty Lenzini served in the Marine Corp during the Vietnam War. Today, he serves as the President of the Tucson Chapter, for The Distinguished Flying Cross Society. He recalls the day he landed in the states.

“We came back, and the public did not support the war and we were not welcomed back like they are today, it was bad,” Lenzini said.

During his time overseas, Lenzini recalls many soldiers not agreeing with the war and their involvement in Vietnam. He says, however, that he wouldn’t change a single thing.

“Looking back at it, I would still do it,” he said. “That was my job, and I was fighting for my country.”

Today, just over 50 years since the last of American soldiers left Vietnam, Lenzini is welcomed and honored for his service. Celebrating with Rep. Ciscomani, and being given a print of the exact plane he flew years ago.

After observing war during the 60s and 70s and now seeing the conflict between Hamas and Israel, Lenzini says the number one mission should always be peace.

“Things get better, but it brings the point that you shouldn’t jump into war if the public or the country is not supporting it, because you don’t wanna go through that again.”

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