View Full Version : 2 Vietnam vets return from Iraq deployment

07-30-2009, 02:44 PM
2 Vietnam vets return from Iraq deployment

By Kristin M. Hall - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Jul 30, 2009 12:07:00 EDT

SMYRNA, Tenn. — The first two Tennessee National Guardsmen that stepped off a plane Wednesday after a yearlong deployment to Iraq shared a similar experience decades earlier as Vietnam War vets.

Master Sgt. Dennis Proctor, 60, and Master Sgt. Robert Potts, 59, both served in Vietnam and then returned to military service as citizen-soldiers, putting aside work and family to deploy to Iraq. They returned Wednesday to the National Guard facility in Smyrna along with about 70 other guardsmen of the 30th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion based in Humboldt.

Families held up large signs with pictures of the returning Guardsmen and rushed out of the airplane hangar to greet them as they stepped off the plane.

There were no big crowds waving flags for returning troops back in the 1970s, Proctor said. The only people to greet him after he returned from Vietnam was his immediate family, he said.

“They didn’t have celebrations back then,” Proctor said. “This is really something else right here.”

For both, the experiences in Vietnam don’t make for easy comparison to the war in Iraq.

“I was 20 years old then, and I went because I was told to go,” Proctor said. “This time, I volunteered to go.”

Potts was a Marine when he went to Vietnam and later left the Corps in 1975. He returned to the military when he joined the National Guard in the 1980s. He deployed once before to Iraq, from 2003 to 2004.

“My experiences from Vietnam and Iraq are totally different,” Potts said. “It’s a totally different environment, and a different situation dealing with the public in Iraq.”

But he said the effect of war on soldiers remains the same.

“Regardless of where you served in the world, there’s some kind of stress level you’re going to have to deal with as a soldier or a Marine,” Proctor said.

The unit was stationed in northern Iraq, providing supplies and overseeing convoys.

Lt. Col. Tommy Baker, the unit commander, said about 50 percent of the Guardsmen in the unit had done at least two deployments since the war started.

Proctor, who turned 60 during his tour and was called “Pops” by the younger soldiers, said he’s glad he had the chance to deploy again.

“It was a real tight-knit bunch,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys and gals.”

Potts is looking forward to returning to his family in Decatur County after finishing his final deployment before retiring next July.

“It’s a big welcome just to be in America,” he said.