By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
Over the past week, over 70,000 attendees visited the Moving Vietnam Wall in Gadsden.
For veterans, it really meant a lot to have the Wall come to town.
“It’s humbling,” said local Vietnam veteran Dennis Long. “It’s a humbling experience. Especially if you’ve never got to see it, and I haven’t. I always wanted to go to Washington to see the real wall, but I never had the opportunity to go. To see all those names, it is just a humbling, humbling experience to sit there, in my opinion, looking at it and wondering why I made it back.”
Long knew several people on the Wall from the about 75 Etowah County casualties listed.
“Back then, everyone knew everyone,” said Long.
Long was attending Glencoe High School, when he dropped out to go to work.
“As soon as I did that, I got drafted,” said Long. “I couldn’t wait to get out of school, I thought.”
Long was not expecting to be drafted.
“I had rheumatic fever when I was 10 years old,” said Long. “I thought, no way they’ll take me.”
After a check-up in Montgomery, Long was deemed healthy enough to serve.
Long was overseas for a year, arriving in February, and doing much of his time fighting during the Tet Offensive, which was a series of surprise attacks by North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, in a bid to end the Vietnam War’s stalemate.
“I wasn’t there but two months when Tet fired up,” said Long. “Man, life for a solid month, they tried to overrun every base camp there.”
During the month of May of the 1968 Tet Offensive, 1,400 U.S. soldiers were killed. Over 1,400 were killed on the last day of their tour in Vietnam.
“That’s frightening that last week that you’re there not knowing what is coming in at you,” said Long. “You’re afraid to stick your head out the door.”
Long said that he was pulled out of the field about a week before he left the country. He flew back on Flying Tiger Airline.
“We got on that plane and that thing started popping, skipping,” said Long. “We flew there to Guam. We changed in Guam. That thing, I’m thinking I made it through bullets for a year and I’m gonna fall in this airplane.”
He was awarded three army accommodations for his actions there. He also received a Bronze Star.
“I can honestly say that I’m grateful that I was able to serve,” said Long. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
During his visit to the Moving Wall, as he was leaving about five young children approached him and thanked him for his service.
“You don’t know what that meant,” said Long.
Long shared that his return to the United states was tough.
“When I came backm into California, I got spit on, kicked at, cursed at,” said Long. “They hated vets.”
After returning to the United States, Long obtained his GED, attended Gadsden State Community College for two years and Snead State Community College for two years.
Recently, Long’s grandson began studying the Vietnam War in school. Long allowed his grandson to bring some of Long’s items from the war, including a poncho made into a jacket, to show his classmates.
“I am so thankful they brought the Wall here,” said Long. “I am so glad, and I wish it was where it could come more often.”
“Just walking down through there and just looking at all those names is just powerful,” said Long. “You think how in the world did I make it through it. All by the grace of God. That’s it.”