By SHERRY DIGMON
The crowd was small but the patriotic spirit was large as the Atmore Memorial VFW Auxiliary hosted their annual Vietnam Veterans Day Saturday, March 30.
Fourteen Vietnam veterans were in attendance.
The guest speaker was Vietnam veteran and author David Hartline.
After he dropped out of high school to help his dad on the farm, he was drafted into the Army. He didn’t reject or resist going into the military but saw it as his duty.
“I knew I would go to Vietnam,” Hartline said. “I didn’t have any reason to think I wouldn’t have to go.”
He was assigned to the 1st Calvary Division. Three months after landing in Vietnam, he was wounded. While he was recovering in a MASH-like unit, he watched the little black and white TV they had.
“It was the first time I saw the protests,” he said. “We didn’t know. It broke our hearts … The protests never left my mind.”
When Hartline got back to the States, he was in a group of soldiers scheduled to parade a 12-block area in Seattle. But there were fights among the spectators along the parade route, and from high rise open windows, people were throwing garbage on them.
Coming home, Hartline took a Trailways bus from Seattle to Chattanooga – five days and five nights on the bus. But he says now, he needed that time.
“They expected us to win that war with our hands tied,” he said. “The politicians lost the war, then blamed us for not winning it.”
When he got back to civilian life, he had a timber company he later sold. He was a police office, then police chief, then a college teacher.
“When I got home, I joined the American Legion. I’ve spent most of my life working for veterans,” Hartline said. “If a veteran needs help, I want to help them. It makes it worthwhile to help veterans who need it so badly.”
Hartline is no stranger to Atmore. He was here in 2006 to accept the award for Arthur Pershing “Tarzan” White who was induced into the Atmore Area Hall of Fame. In fact, he’s writing a book about White who was one of his mentors.
Others participating in the program were members of the VFW Auxiliary; Poarch Creek Youth Tribal Council members Kaiden McGhee and Gracie Buckhault;
Field Supervisor at the PCI Boys and Girls Club Carolyn Bodiford; PCI Cultural Educator Joey Smelzer; Vietnam veteran Joe Hall; Vietnam veteran James Peters; Mayor Jim Staff and Councilwoman Susan Smith.