Veteran's appreciation picnic

Friday marked the annual cook out at the Lawton Chapter of Vietnam Veterans for America and the guests of honor were troops from Fort Sill who are on medical hold.  It was a great chance for the two groups to trade stories while filling up on picnic food.  Though many of the vets had never met before, they still feel a strong bond and while the burgers sizzled on the grill, the troops and the old timers swapped war stories.  It's the kind of support that the vets say they didn't get.

Friday's support came by way of an annual cookout and created a chance for the vets to mingle with troops from the Warrior Transition Unit.  But, the troop isn't just any unit, these troops were injured fighting for their country"Soldiers that have medical conditions and are here to heal.  You know we get some folks, soldiers that are medivaced to Fort Sill," said Major Stephen Krebs.  And, the vets enjoy helping out around Reynold's Army Hospital with everything from small traumas to severe post traumatic stress disorder.

"Many of the folks from local chapter 751 volunteer at the hospital help provide moral support for the soldiers who are seeking treatment, as well as family members," said Krebs.  But, they don't just give them support at the hospital, they're on a mission to make sure all troops are seen off and welcomed home.  "We have had a representative at every departure or ceremony that's been going on since they have started," said Viet Nam Vet Robbie Robbins.

The topic of discussion at the picnic was mostly focused on burgers, but a statement by President Bush was chatted about, too.  The President's comparison of Iraq to the Viet Nam war put some people in an uproar and troubled one local veteran as well.  "It is not the same," said veteran Gary Secor.  "The war in Vietnam, it was totally different than what we are going through right now."

The Vet's motto is: Never again shall a soldier come home from battle and feel unappreciated, as the case sometimes was at the end of the conflict in Viet Nam.  "It's important because it makes you feel that you accomplished something," said Robbins.  "A lot of the guys that came back from Viet Nam, were not treated nice." The 45 troops at the cookout must have certainly felt appreciated - to say the least.