Woman recalls Vietnam anguish, hopes attitudes have changed

In his last letter home, as Pam Martin, 61, recalls, her husband wrote that he and his fellow soldiers could not understand the protesting going on back home.

He died April 29, 1968, in Vietnam. He was 23. She was 21. They had been married just short of two years, and four months later, she gave birth to their son.

Losing her husband, Sgt. Robert Eugene Anderson, was made worse, she said, by the negative portrayal of the Vietnam War and the vilification of those who served.

But she thinks that's changed.

"I think Sept. 11 helped to reunite a lot of us," she said. "It's sad, but that's what it took."

And she's encouraged by the support shown to the military and by those who came to the Memorial Day celebrations Monday at Lone Mountain Cemetery.

"It's so good to know people came today," she said. "Most people today will back our troops no matter what."

Cinthia Claussen, however, isn't so sure. She and her husband, Russell, went to the cemetery along with family to pay respect to her brother, John Patterson, who died in 1993.

Also on her mind was her son, Joshua Patterson, who is serving in Iraq.

Claussen says that on one of her son's returns to the country, she heard some "boos" when he stepped into the Reno-Tahoe Airport.

"I don't think George Bush is perfect, but we have to support our military, period," she said. "Whether you feel this war is right or not, what they're doing is patriotic, and right."

Still, she said, it's hard.

"Of course, as a mother, I wish he wasn't there," she said. "I don't want him to get harmed. But I absolutely support him."

Now a member of the American Legion Auxiliary High Desert Unit 56, Martin said she's found comfort in the loss of her husband.

She worked on a military base for 29 years and called it "the best therapy."

"What helped me through all this was to watch our POWs come home," she said. "I knew he did not die in vain."

• Contact reporter Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1272.

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