A Valley Vietnam Vet's Story - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

A Valley Vietnam Vet's Story

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  Today, as we honor all veterans, we take a look back at Vietnam vets. Many of them were not welcomed home with open arms.

    Back in the 1960's the U.S. entered the Vietnam War on the premise of stopping the spread of communism. It turned into quagmire that many Americans protested until we pulled out of it in 1973.

  In 1969, 19-year old D.J., Darrell Johnson of Crookston decided to join the Army, because he was sure he'd be drafted anyway.

Darrell Johnson, Crookston Vietnam Vet: "We ended up in Cambodia in May of 1970. And that was the worst stuff I'd seen."

Screaming Man: "I know what's it's about."

Woman: "I have a son that's going to the Army…"

  Here at home, as the argument and protest over the Vietnam War grew louder, D.J. found himself in the middle of bloody combat.

  D.J. was just one of three men in his platoon, who didn't become a casualty.

D.J.: "We lost 8 dead and 28 wounded in that battle."

  D.J. says his most terrifying experience of the war was working as a tunnel rat. Armed with a handgun and flashlight, he was sent into an underground network of tunnels to flush out the enemy.

D.J.: "I went in with a .45 and a knife."

Reporter: "You're just looking ahead with a flashlight?"

D.J.: "Yeah, you're crawling on your elbows. Yeah, it's king of a hairy deal."

 Despite his sacrifice and service, D.J. remembers flying back into the U.S. and being met by protesters. He also remembers returning to Crookston, aboard a train from Minneapolis and feeling like an outcast. D.J. says time is healing that wound.

D.J.: "Oh, its changed now, yeah. People come up and thank you now, when they never did before. That feels pretty good."

   One-thousand-two-hundred-seventy-six North Dakotans and Minnesotans died in Vietnam.

  In all, 58-thousand Americans lost their lives. 

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