North Dakota veteran returns from trip to Vietnam
Veteran Wally Herman on Monday received the homecoming he never got the first time he returned from Vietnam 41 years ago. The 64-year-old Purple Heart recipient from Havana, N.D., was welcomed back to Hector International Airport in Fargo by more...
Veteran Wally Herman on Monday received the homecoming he never got the first time he returned from Vietnam 41 years ago.
The 64-year-old Purple Heart recipient from Havana, N.D., was welcomed back to Hector International Airport in Fargo by more than 20 family members from four generations.
"We decided we're going to give him that fanfare this time," said his stepdaughter Marie Travers of Wahpeton, N.D.
When Herman returned to the U.S. in 1969 after serving a year in the war, his brother John Herman was the only person to meet him at the airport. "So, this is great," he said.
Herman, along with 14 other Purple Heart recipients from around the U.S., won the trip through a Veterans of Foreign Wars contest in January.
"He was kind of shocked when he found out he won," stepdaughter Sharon Halmrast said.
Herman said the changes he saw in Vietnam were "unbelievable."
Before, many of the buildings were bamboo huts, and most people wore traditional Vietnamese clothing, he said. Today, the country has undergone a tremendous amount of development and has become largely westernized.
The highway system was under construction during Herman's time in the war, but now, "the traffic is just horrendous," he said.
Veterans on the 10-day trip toured museums, landmarks and also looked for the bases at which many had once stayed.
"All we found left of a couple was a little bit of the asphalt runway," he said. "If you go over there looking for something, you're not going to find it."
He said the controversy and negative publicity surrounding Vietnam was largely the reason many veterans didn't receive a homecoming.
Herman also escaped the lasting effects often associated with veterans of the war, Halmrast said.
"He's very patriotic, not a Vietnam veteran bitter about serving," she said. "He has so many stories."
Herman said, "There's a lot of people that had a lot of problems when they came back, but I've always talked about it, and it didn't bother me."
Herman said he was glad to get the opportunity to return, and there was a moment on the trip when it seemed as though not much had changed.
"There was one time when we landed ... it looked the same as it did 40 years ago, and that really brought it back," he said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511