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Remembering America's Military: Vets worry of waning public support

By Greg Gelpi

Watching public support turn and politics mingle with military affairs, local military veterans are reminded of their own experiences when they returned from the Vietnam War.

Memorial Day is about the soldiers and not about the politics or the politicians, soldiers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6330 in Jonesboro, said.

Initially hesitant to talk about his experiences in the Vietnam War, Jim Dombrowski said that no one cared about the soldiers when they returned and he worries that the country is returning to that.

"The troops don't determine policies," Dombrowski, a Marine, said. "You don't have to support the president, but you should always support the troops."

He said everyone should find a soldier, any soldier, even a complete stranger, and write and send packages.

"Let's just not do what we did in Nam," Dombrowski said. "Just find their names and send them something. How would you want your son to be treated if he was there?"

Memorial Day isn't about parties and going to the beach, Mat Cudzil, an Army veteran, said. It's about the soldiers, the ones on the front lines doing a job and fighting for freedom.

"It's a day of remembrance," he said. "It's not just a day set aside to go out and have a good time."

Cudzil, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, said he had a job to do and he is proud of his service.

"I am proud to be a veteran, and I am proud to have served my country," he said. "Uncle Sam called us and that's what we had to do. I'm no hero. I'm just another soldier doing his thing."

They both called Ron Gatskie a hero, but even he was spit on and jeered when he returned from Vietnam.

Gatskie, a Navy pilot, was shot down three times during the Vietnam War, he said. In September 1967, he was shot down outside of Hanoi and walked about 100 miles for two weeks until he could be rescued on the coast.

"I survived and I don't know how," Gatskie, who earned two Navy Crosses, said. "The holiday means something special to me."

Gatskie joined others from the Jonesboro VFW in placing American flags Saturday at Sherwood Memorial Park & Garden of Christ Mausoleum in Jonesboro.