Byron Higgin (right), in combat gear and his radio, talked with Royal Hettling, spewing out the “code” lingo from Vietnam. Hettling is also a Vietnam veteran. Trying to be descriptive with details, Byron Higgin stretched out his arms to the public. With the American Flags before them, the junior high choir sang out for the audience and the Minneota band’s brass section joined in the Veteran’s Day celebration. With the American Flags before them, the junior high choir sang out for the audience and the Minneota band’s brass section joined in the Veteran’s Day celebration.

Combat story links kids to Vietnam

“Hello Red Baron ... This is Snoopy!”

“Charlie Brown says to go 10 kilometers, then stop and dig. Out!”

“Linus, you form a perimeter to the right, enforce the perimeter and send out a reconnaissance. Oh, Linus, you’ve got the left flank tonight. Got it? Out!”

“Roger Pig Pen ... you’re the right flank. “

“All Units, this is Snoopy .... ahhh, Charlie Brown says watch out for the elephants! Out.”

“Quit laughing Pig Pen. There are elephants out there. Out!”

The radio lingo of radio telephone operators in Vietnam got the attention of the kids and adults in the audience at the Veteran’s Day Program in Minneota last Wednesday.

As guest speaker, I wore gear such as a helmet, the RTR (radio) and flak jacket we wore in Vietnam.

“Hi ... I’m Snoopy, or at least I was back in 1968 and 69 when I carried this radio all over Vietnam. They called me the RTO — Which meant Radio Telephone Operator,” the audience was told.

“Today I’m a Patriot. Do you know what a Patriot is?” The dictionary says he’s one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests. He’s fearless in his quest to preserve American security. I’m going to tell you how and why I became a Patriot.

“I was 20 years old when they yanked me out of my American lifestyle, shaved my head and began to force me to change all of my ways.”

“When I stepped off the airplane at Ton Son Hut Air Force Base in Saigon, I was hit with a harsh humidity-soaked heat I could only imagine. At the same time, I suddenly felt alone, forgotten, abandoned.”

Furthermore, “As I watched Vietnam veterans file past me to get on the plane I’d just arrived it, then filed past and didn’t look at us. They all were thin and had that far-away look in their eyes. I couldn’t imagine what they’d been through. But I was going to find out.”

My assignment was to the 82nd Airborne Division.

“Only thing I remembered about the ‘Airborne’ was when I asked my dad if I should take training he said, ‘Only two things fall out of the sky — bird poop and fools. Anyway, why would anyone want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?’”

“But I was stuck.”

“There were stories of nearly drowning, of guarding a shot down helicopter, guarding the trail in the middle of the jungle, frightened to death and nights of laying on the damp ground, thinking about my family and friends back home, going dancing, to theaters, out to eat and not giving one thought to me or what I was going through.”

The audience heard about my disgust when I read about the American Flag being burned on Hennepin Avenue in my home state of Minnesota.

When I saw one of my buddies lay all night with a medic holding his throat together so he could breath .... When I saw a Lt. and his RTO riddled with bullets ... When we were checking out a hill and had bullets fly over my head ... mortars ravage a hill and our tromp up the hill to make sure nobody survived .... When I saw my medic friend die ... his legs separated from his body, wearing the shirt I’d given him to keep dry ... When I crawled under a fallen gravestone to keep the incoming bullets and shells from hitting me ...

“Well ... that’s when I became a Patriot.”

I’d seen fearless men die to protect their country. I saw men who just wanted to be home do what it took to protect America ... and I saw some of them with holes in them or mental wounds they’d never recover from.

I watched men die, lose limbs and lose faith. That’s when I became a PATRIOT. I saw them fight, I saw them die, I saw them maimed ... and suddenly I knew why they were here — and why I was here .... TO PROTECT, TO SERVE, TO MAKE SURE IT DIDN’T HAPPEN ON OUR SOIL.

You’ve got it pretty nice in this country. You don’t know much about the men laying in dark, damp prison cells, rotting away because their captors won’t let them go.

You don’t worry about where to get food, where you go at night or what you can think.

That’s not the case in other countries. All I’ve seen, all I’ve done, has convinced me AMERICA IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR. DESPITE THE HATRED AND DISRESPECT SHOWN TO ME WHEN I RETURNED HOME ... SO I WILL CONTINUE TO BE A PATRIOT.

The fight will never end — and some of you will join it. WHAT’S WORTH FIGHTING FOR IS: FREEDOM! We pay the price for that.

I paid a price, my friends here all paid a price. And all over the world are soldiers who paid the ultimate price.

They gave their lives. Don’t take it for granted ... FREEDOM is NOT free.

But it’s worth it!

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