More than 58,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War. Millions more came home forever changed.
One local Vietnam veteran now spends his time serving others who’ve served our country.
David Martin was 20 when he went to war. The experience was nothing his upbringing in Amelia, Virginia could’ve prepared him for.
“Small town boy never really been out to do anything like that,” explained Martin. “My first flight was when I went to Vietnam.”
He described himself as “scared as heck.”
Fifty years later he vividly remembers the day he was injured in an attack.
“As soon as we started landing, they opened fire on us we were surrounded,” he recalled. “Mortar round came in, felt a little sting in my leg.”
After only about a month in combat, he ended up in the hospital and eventually back home where he continued his military service at Fort Bragg and then in the reserves. Although he received a Purple Heart, sometimes feels he hasn’t done enough.
“I guess I have a guilt complex because everyone I know stayed the year, some people stayed two, some people stayed three,” he said. “I wear the Purple Heart hat, which I’m proud of, to represent the guys, but I still feel like maybe I shouldn’t be doing things. I don’t deserve it.”
Anyone who knows Martin would argue otherwise. He may not have served for long in Vietnam, but he is still serving the men and women who fought for our country.
“Veterans, when they came back from Vietnam, were not appreciated. Being a Vietnam veteran, I am, and the guys that I know, are going to ensure that anybody comes back now is going to be appreciated and understood for what they have gone through,” said Martin.
He’s the commander of the VFW in Wake Forest, and part of the Wake Forest Purple Heart Foundation, the group that brought the traveling Vietnam memorial wall, known as “The Wall that Heals” to the community recently.
That wall provided a chance for those who came home to honor those who didn’t, and for those too young to remember the war that defined Martin’s generation, to see the magnitude of the sacrifice made by so many.