Fifty-one years ago, beginning in January 1968, the Tet Offensive changed the course of the Vietnam War.
Until The War on Terror, aka The Global War on Terrorism, the Vietnam War — also known as the Second Indochina War and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War — had the longest U.S. combat force participation (17.4 years).
This conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from Nov. 1, 1955 to the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, with U.S. involvement ending in 1973, claimed more than 58,000 American lives. And the climate for veterans returning to the United States from this war was far from favorable.
“Welcome home” was not a common greeting to someone who served in this war. And yet, many of those who served went on to become successful CEOs, business owners, doctors, and teachers — and raise families that knew little, if anything, of their service.
Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame recipient Bob Ford, who flew over a thousand missions in Vietnam, was one who was forward thinking in his transition and continues to work to change the negative narrative around those who served in Vietnam.
You can listen to his compelling podcast interview on The Military Wire with Mike Schindler.
In his gripping memoir, Black Cat 2-1: The True Story of a Vietnam Helicopter Pilot and His Crew (Brown Books Publishing Group), Bob Ford delivers a vivid portrait of camaraderie, danger and survival. From July 1967 to July 1968, Ford flew over 1,000 missions in Vietnam.
On Nov. 3, 2018, Ford was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame and was awarded the Major General Douglas O. Dollar Distinguished Public Service Award. Named for the founder of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, the award recognizes exemplary public and community service and support of veterans. Ford has funded college educations and student expenses for needy families; placed computers in schools; and donated bicycles for Christmas Santa drawings. In September 2017 he donated a Huey helicopter to the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City for permanent display. Ford’s decorations include the Air Medal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters with one for Valor and the Bronze Star Medal.
A gifted storyteller, Ford shared his experiences in a StoryCorps segment recorded in Oklahoma City in March 2018. In September 2018, Ford narrated the audio book version of Black Cat 2-1, available now on Audible/Amazon and iTunes.
– By Mike Schindler
Edmonds resident Mike Schindler is the founder and chief executive officer of Operation Military Family Cares —— a 501(c)(3) veteran service organization and technology provider that combats veteran homelessness, while working to strengthen relationships and equip communities and families for success.