Sunday, May 28, 2000

Reception gets warmer as time goes on

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLERAIN TOWNSHIP — Staff Sgt. Howard Ferdon joined the Army in 1964 and saw three years of combat in Vietnam.

(Dick Swaim photo)
        He came home and wanted to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

        “Most of the flack I got, I got from the VFW,” said Mr. Ferdon, 53. “They told me to my face, "We don't want Vietnam veterans.' They said it wasn't a war. They said it wasn't even a police action.

        “I said, "Hey, my commander in chief sent me, so I went.'”

        Then he went to an American Legion post in Mount Healthy and became a member, fought his war ghosts privately and got on with his life. He would spend the next 28 years in the Ohio National Guard.

        “It was a good six, seven months before I could lay down and go to sleep,” he said. “If a car backfired, I hit the floor.”

        A friend once made the mistake of sneaking up behind him to scare him. The man got knocked out.

        These days, Mr. Ferdon works as a driver for Case Towing in Lebanon. His two grown daughters have given him three grandchildren.

        And he's found the reception that Vietnam veterans receive now is warmer than the one he got from the boys at the VFW hall in 1970.

        Mr. Ferdon marches in parades with a Vietnam veterans group that pulls a 4-by-8 foot replica of the cage in which North Vietnamese held U.S. prisoners of war.

        “It makes me choke up,” he said. “They look at you as a Vietnam veterans unit, jump up and salute. They clap. They really respect you.

        “It's like people are trying to say they're sorry for how they treated us when we got home.”


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