- November 9, 2022
On National Vietnam War Veterans Day, Del Webb's Chip Jones told his most vivid memory of serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines.
Jones was awaiting the start of Wednesday's ceremony to honor Vietnam veterans at the Circle of Honor memorial in Del Webb of Lakewood Ranch.
His memories didn't involve ideology or philosophy. It was at a more basic level.
"I was a helicopter gunner in a Huey," said Jones, who was a sergeant. "I remember getting shot at by those 50 calibers. You would see the tracers go by like flaming beer cans. We were shot down twice."
While it is not the most pleasant memory, Jones thought it was important to show up at the community event hosted by the Association of Veterans and Military Supporters of Del Webb.
"You remember things you probably don't want to remember," he said. "But I got through it. My blood turned to ice and my focus became acute. I didn't think about getting killed. I focused on how I could survive."
Del Webb's Bob Ferullo, a Navy petty officer second class from 1964-68, served on a ship off the coast of Vietnam.
"We were in a zone where nobody was shooting at me," Ferullo said. "We were pretty well protected. But we worked 24-7 because planes were consistently taking off and landing.
"I was amazed that everyone seemed to know what they were supposed to do, and what they had to do."
He said at the time he was 20 years old and physically fit.
"We all thought we could conquer the world," he said.
Rick Davis, a retired Army colonel, served in 1969 and 1970 in Vietnam as a communications officer and as an infantry company commander.
"I remember the sadness of the Vietnamese people that I was exposed to," he said. "They were lost. We would feed them, help them, lead them to a new future."
Did he feel they got a better future because of the U.S. military's involvement?
"I think they did," he said.
Del Webb's Herman Martinez, an Army veteran and founder of the Association of Veterans and Military Supporters, told those assembled that he has had conflicting emotions about serving in Vietnam, mostly because it was "One of the ugliest wars in our history."
"I was scared to death," he said. "Every one of us has a story to tell."
Martinez said he continues to be haunted by nightmares of the time.
He arrived in Vietnam with his fellow U.S. soldiers, and an hour after landing at an airport in Saigon, six fellow soldiers were killed in a mortar attack just outside the airport.
He also noted that at that time of his life, he never had heard of Napalm or Agent Orange.
The current president of the Association of Veterans and Military Supporters is Del Webb's Rich Greenberg, who was a U.S. Army captain serving in Vietnam in 1971-72.
Greenberg told those assembled about how young all the U.S. soldiers were at the time.
"I was 24 when I was promoted to captain," he said. "And they called me the 'old man.'"
When Greenberg returned to the U.S. after the war, he said there were "no cheers, no tears, no parades. But it is important to remember the prominent place (those who served in Vietnam) occupy in the history of our nation."
Greenberg said being a Vietnam soldier became more socially acceptable in the U.S. following wars with Iran and Afghanistan. However, the bad memories of that return home still linger.
"For one reason or another, we haven't been able to let go," he said. "This is our Memorial Day."
He praised the Del Webb community for being so supportive of its veterans group, which now has more than 300 members.
"This community is fantastic," he said. "It is impressive this many folks turned out today, and most of them are not veterans."
As far as memories, Greenberg said he would fly missions after a U.S. aircraft had crashed to disabled (blow up) the plane's radios.
"I flew one mission when a small spotter plane went down over Laos ... just seeing it decimated."
His good memory is that all the guys in his platoon came back alive.
The event's invocation was given by Bob Turner, a former U.S. Marines major.
"Our freedom is purchased at a high cost and should not be taken for granted," Turner said.