Vietnam vets honor one of their own |

Vietnam vets honor one of their own

Steve Ranson
Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America chapter 989 in Reno pose with Leroy Strong, second from left, Strong, who served in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, was recently recognized for his service by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services and the VVA. From left are Dee Garner, membership chair of the VVA; Strong; Hal Wakeling, chapter 989 vice president; and Linda Dickinson, president.

Vietnam veteran Leroy Strong felt good that others remembered his service in the Army more than 50 years ago in a land 7,500 miles away.

Strong, a resident of the Fernley Estates Assisted Living, recently received a new Army ball cap from members of the Reno chapter (989) of Vietnam Veterans of America when other veterans from both war and peace time were recognized for their military service.

The Utah native, who is now in his early 70s, said he was humbled and honored to be singled out for both his service in Vietnam and for receiving the ball cap.

“I really didn’t expect that,” Strong said of receiving the hat. “I was really proud of my service with the Army.”

Joining the Army was special for Strong. He had seven brothers and each one of them joined the Navy.

“I was the only Army guy,” he said with a smile.

Strong spent one six-month tour in Vietnam spanning 1965-1966. He worked on medical vehicles as a mechanic at a military installation between Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) and the border with North Vietnam.

Receiving orders to deploy to Vietnam didn’t come immediately for Strong. He had been at Fort Benning, Ga., before traveling to Southeast Asia. As a 21-year-old infantry soldier, he learned his mechanic skills while there. The Viet Cong, though, had a welcoming party for Strong and the other unsuspecting soldiers.

“When we first got there, the Viet Cong hit us pretty hard,” he recalled.

Afterward during his half year there, he said his unit would come under small arms fire.

Like so many Vietnam veterans when they returned home, Strong said he was bothered people didn’t accept what the veterans did overseas.

“I was really upset,” he said.

What makes Strong’s story unique is that he returned to Vietnam after the conflict had ended, and he was no longer in the military. Although he was part of the large United States military force serving in Vietnam, Strong said he loved the country. In the early 1980s, he returned to a country that had been united under a communist government.

“It is a beautiful, really intriguing country,” said Strong, who was a civilian in Utah putting exterior siding on houses. “The people were friendly, and that impressed me. I saw the DMZ (demilitarized zone) and Da Nang. The country has changed a lot.”

Strong drove around the country, seeing more of the landscape than when he was first there in the 1960s. He felt at peace with himself in a foreign land the U. S. had been at war before his return visit, seven years after the government fell.

“I enjoyed the Army. I really did,” Strong said, reflecting on his service both in Georgia and in Vietnam.