Memories of a Vietnam Veteran: Petty Officer Patrick Reynolds
Vietnam Combat Veteran Petty Officer Second Class Patrick Reynolds remembers his time in Vietnam clearly. Petty Officer Reynolds fully believed in patriotism and doing his civic duty, just as his grandfather and father before him. His grandfather served in World War I in France and Germany; his father served in WWII, in the US Army Air Corps in China, Burma, and India.
Patrick Reynolds enlisted in the Navy, because he liked the way they performed career advancements. Reynolds was fluent in several languages and was chosen to be in the Navy’s Special Operations. PO2 Reynolds learned to speak Vietnamese and was assigned as a military advisor to the South Vietnamese Navy. He spent his time patrolling enemy waters.
As a member of the Security and Intelligence Unit, Petty Officer Reynolds sought information and engaged in frequent combat. In one 90 day period, he participated in 53 firefights. He and the other advisors served on South Vietnamese patrol craft, never knowing if one of the men sitting next to them was really a Viet Cong.
Vietnam veterans returning to the US discovered they were persona non grata. Reynolds states that the dissent over the war caused people to shun and jeer at returning military men and women. What made it worse to Reynolds was the public perception that the US had “lost” the war.
Vietnam veterans were given a 15-minute exit interview by a psychologist and returned to the world. Reynolds says that the veterans found that listing military service on their resumes hurt employment chances. He found the prejudice so intense that many Vietnam veterans wouldn’t admit their veteran status to older military members from the World Wars. Petty Officer Reynolds lived in Canada for a few years while the furor over Vietnam calmed down.
After suffering through years of being judged for his service, the tide turned in the 1990s. Reynolds now lives in Florida and finds that when wearing his cap with his Vietnam unit’s logo, people often stop to say “thank you” and shake his hand. He meets college students and other young veterans, and reports he is pleased to see that newer veterans do not face the same challenges as those in the 1960s and1970s.
The Navy-man urges military members to make sure their medical records are kept accurate. At one point, Reynolds received a concussion in a battle and almost lost his eye. The Navy medic helped him, and they returned to the fight. Later, when needing medical care for his eye, there were no records of how his eye became injured. He says that things happen in combat in the heat of the battle – records get lost or are never made – but it is so important to document every issue that may need future treatment.
Petty Officer Patrick Reynolds remains a patriot. He believes in his country and is proud that he accepted its call and challenge to put himself in harm’s way. Although Reynolds has also had to say goodbye to many of his former military compatriots, he believes that today’s veterans benefit from what Vietnam vets went through. Today, he believes, the Vietnam-era lack of appreciation for military service will never happen again. He believes that all of us better understand the sacrifices veterans make to be of service to our country.
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