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Independence Day, 2006–My Most Patriotic Moment

My most patriotic moment, my proudest time to be an American, occurred when IJim in Vietnam wasn’t even in America at the time.

It was 1968, I had brought a small group of sailors to Camp Horn near DaNang, South Vietnam. We were there to assist a marine radio battalion (First Radio Battalion) that at the time was overworked and way undermanned. (We were all part of the Naval Security Group, having trained together at Correy Field in Pensacola, Florida.) Our work there, and the men I worked with, are among my most meaningful experiences ever.

We were still short on communications specialists, so we all worked in two 12-hour shifts. There was never a day off; you were on or off, and very quickly you shifted. Frankly, we were luckly to get any sleep at all when we were under mortar attack.

When it was time for our group to cycle back to Japan and let another group help out for awhile, I realized the marines did not have tickets to get us OUT of Vietnam, only IN. We had to wait for whatever hop we could catch. We hung around around the airport long enough and looked miserable enough (which wasn’t difficult) that we finally caught a flight out … a medivac, a hospital plane.

We landed for transfer in Okinawa. I checked on flights to Japan for myself and my men, and was told that there was an American aircraft headed that way, but it was ready to take off. Fortunately, they radioed the plane and told them to wait for us. They pointed me in the general direction of where the planes were and simply said, “Hurry!”

At night all airplanes look pretty much the same. We were running down the tarmac, toting our sea-bags, trying to find one plane among what looked like hundreds. By this time we were exhausted. Something told me to look up. A spotlight, or some kind of light, was shining squarely on Old Glory, a small American flag that was painted on the tail of our ride out of Okinawa. It’s difficult to put into words, but I felt an immediate sense of calmness and serenity, that everything would work out. We loaded quickly through the tail ramp of the plane. I made sure my men were taken care of, then buckled myself into a seat … and slept like a baby.

I NEVER see Old Glory flying but that it doesn’t remind me of that night and that special flag that seemed to find me.

God Bless America, and all of our men and women in uniform who wear our flag on their shoulder. May it be a beacon to them also.

 James Sutton, Psychologist 

PS: The picture was taken in 1968, DaNang, South Vietnam. I ended up taking an additional TAD detachment of support there to First Radio Battalion.  

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July 4, 2006 - Posted by | Inspirational, Special Occasions

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