Photographs by Mark Steelman • Intro by Tracy Williams The 1960s were a turbulent decade. The Vietnam War had divided the nation, and while the youth of America were encouraged to serve and protect the country — many felt it was their patriotic duty — their families often struggled to support the cause. “I didn’t even know where Vietnam was on a map,” says retired Army Sergeant Rich Hosier. Boys returned home from the war as men, but they were often greeted with apathy — or worse. Blaine Love recalls being hassled by protesters. “They surrounded me . . . chanting that I was a ‘baby-killer’ among other things,” he recalled. Others were spat upon or accused of being warmongers. Few were thanked for their sacrifices. Next month, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Chapter 885, Lower Cape Fear Region, will honor all veterans of all wars during a four-day celebration in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Here, we introduce you to a handful of local veterans, each with a story to tell, each with stories they will forever keep to themselves. For more information on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War celebration to be held Thursday, April 23, through Sunday, April 26, visit 50thcelebrationvietnamwar.org.
Charlie Garner, Jr.
“I remember the draft starting in the ’60s while I was still in high school. There were demonstrations, school integrations, and President Kennedy got assassinated.” Dates in Vietnam: USS Maddox 1963–1967; MSTS/ MCO 1969–1971 Branch of Service: U.S. Navy Rank during active duty: Chief Petty Officer
Garner volunteered for duty at age 19 with four high school classmates. Some, he said, went into the Army, but he chose the Navy because he wanted to see the world. He was assigned to the USS Maddox in 1963, then in August of 1964, Garner and his shipmates were attacked in the South China seas, later known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.
Salt • March 2015
The Art & Soul of Wilmington