Corpsman recalls Vietnam service
BY STACI WILSON
Not a star; not a celebrity; and he doesn’t consider himself a hero.
Naval Corpsman 2nd Class Larry Zeller told the crowd gathered on the Green in Montrose for the annual Memorial Day service that he was just one of the many who served in the Vietnam War.
Zeller said, “The Vietnam way was the most unpopular war in our nation’s history.”
But he said, it was that war that generated a movement to “never forget what happened to the troops – before and after the war.”
Zeller listed names of friends he had served with. “Some of those were lost there – others were lost after to Agent Orange and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
He urged all who were gathered to visit the Vietnam War Memorial
in Washington, D.C. –the second most visited monument in the nation’s capitol behind the White House.
“It is a site to behold,” he said.
Zeller spoke of arriving in Vietnam attached to the 11th Regiment of the US Marine Corps in 1967,
He heard shelling at a distance the first night. “I was scared,” he said. “It was truly a nightmare for me.”
As a corpsman, his job entailed keeping up with the malaria pills and vaccinations for the troops, as well as tending the wounded and the dead.
Assigned to him was a bodyguard, Cpl. Fred Rose. He spoke of the times Cpl. Rose had protected him in dangerous situations.
That is, until Cpl. Rose was injured by a land mine. “His wounds were extensive,” Zeller said. “I couldn’t save him. Fred Rose is my hero.”
In 1969, Zeller returned stateside. “I thought I was leaving behind those memories. I was wrong. My war was not over,” he said.
He described returning home where “far too many looked down on us; far too many called us baby killers; and far too many of us were spit on, as I was at the Los Angeles airport. There were far too many of us wounded and far too many of us killed.”
“There were no parades and ceremonies like this,” he said.
“When you see a veteran, shake his hand,” Zeller urged. “It means a lot, especially to a Vietnam vet.
In addition to Zeller’s remarks, the Montrose VFW handed out parade awards; patriotic music was performed by Lathrop St. Elementary band students; and the National Anthem was performed by Mountain View concert choir members. Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen contest winners were also announced.