Although their conflict ended fewer than 30 years after World War II, Vietnam veterans are suffering the consequences of their service at a rate almost equal to those who fought in Germany and Japan.
The rapid disappearance of Vietnam veterans because of residual war effects like Agent Orange has sparked a Vietnam specific Honor Flight, taking off for the first time June 19.
“I want the vets that are sick to get up there (to Washington D.C.),” Vietnam Veterans Association President Chapter 338 Frank Reynolds said. “They may not last waiting to get on the Honor Flight.”
Since October 2014, Reynolds has been able to raise $20,000 for this special sector of Honor Flight Nevada.
The Reno political satire event, Sheep Dip, donated more than $13,000 allowing a half-dozen Vietnam-era veterans a seat on this inaugural flight.
“This was a must do for him (Reynolds),” John Yuspa of Honor Flight Nevada said. “To be with all of his Vietnam brothers. The VVA and Frank are doing some wonderful things.”
Reynolds retired as a Marine gunnery sergeant in July 1989 after serving 20 years.
He was called back to action to serve during Operation Desert Storm.
“Going with Vietnam-era vets is what is important to me,” Reynolds said about having a seat on the first flight. “We each have a little bit of each other in us. The whole comrade in arms thing. This is not a vacation. A vacation is something you take your family on. I’m going with my brothers.”
This special Vietnam-era focused flight, while it’s structured the same as a traditional Honor Flight, is funded separately.
Sierra-Tahoe Branch 137 Fleet Reserve Association heard Reynolds call for help, and donated $1,000 to the VVA on May 13.
“Every $1,000, that’s another veteran that gets to go,” Reynolds said.
Forty veterans will travel to the nation’s capital along with Carson City Mayor Robert Crowell who’s co-chairman of the Vietnam Project.
A special spot at the Friday Evening Parade at the 8th & I, oldest Marine Corps barracks, will be the first stop for the veterans followed by a day of sightseeing, with extra time at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
“This will probably be the most emotional day of the entire trip,” Yupsa said. “It is the only memorial in D.C. that has names on it… hopefully this can help some of these guys be OK with their service. We will have a counselor with us that can help us figure out how we can tear that band aid off a bit.”
Reynolds understands the amount of money and effort it takes to get a specific Honor Flight off the ground.
His accomplishments have left him without words.
“It is hard to describe something like this; when you accomplish something for other people. There is no poetry for it, no words for it; when you fulfill an obligation no one else was doing. It’s more than that. I’m helping something that is a part of me. The feeling inside me that comes out, when I talk about this flight, is just a blessing,” he said.
The VVA and Reynolds will continue to raise money to sponsor Vietnam-era veterans on Honor Flights.
Reynolds’ goal is to organize at least an annual trip for a group of veterans.
“I want to get as many people on these flights as I can so that they can see what the world has done for them,” Reynolds said. “They need to see that we’re not forgetting about them.”
To donate to the Vietnam Project call Reynolds at 410-727-1144.
For more information about Honor Flight Nevada visit www.honorflightnv.org.