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New project to honor San Diego’s Vietnam War veterans

SAN DIEGO — Some 8,000 miles and half a century away, the Vietnam War isn’t over yet for everyone. There’s still at least one mission left. And veteran war correspondent Joe Galloway, who was in the trenches with them in Vietnam, is leading the charge.

“We have over 400 interviews in the can and we’re still marching,” Galloway said.

Galloway’s marching orders come directly from the Secretary of Defense and are chartered by Congress: to commemorate 50 years since the Vietnam War by recording all of the voices of the veterans who never got to tell their stories when they returned home from the controversial war.

Many veterans were forced to bury their stories.

“It was so bad that on the plane coming home from a year’s tour in combat and watching their brothers be killed and wounded, they would be told on the plane to change out of the uniform. They got home and Mama didn’t want them talking about the war at her table,” Galloway said.

Galloway has been crisscrossing the country, interviewing Vietnam veterans — including ones in San Diego — capturing their stories for the Library of Congress. Each one is an emotional remembrance; some, unearthed for the first time.

“There’s always one other story there that didn’t get told at the time that hasn’t been told yet,” Galloway said.

For example, the account told by one former Army commander, whose company was forced to make camp in total darkness, only to awaken to pure horror.

“When he woke up in the morning, there was a hand sticking out of the dirt right beside his head where he had slept and he was horrified but he ordered them to dig it up.”

And they kept digging.

All told, 185 bodies of executed Vietnamese civilians were unearthed that day.

Galloway has written extensively on the Vietnam War, from his wartime reports to two books. One was even made into a movie starring Mel Gibson called “We Were Soldiers.”

Galloway was in this battle and awarded the Bronze Star for rescuing wounded soldiers and is determined to see more combat stories get the same attention, but time is running out.

“This is capturing voices that are about to disappear from our society,” Galloway said.

And they’re not just telling their own stories.

“They talk about their fallen brothers more than any single other thing. They get their say through these voices we are capturing on that video,” he said.

Galloway says we should all take it personally and recognize a Vietnam veteran.

“Give them the respect you forgot to give them 50 years ago…It’s a do-over and it’s your last chance,” he said.

Stay with FOX 5 as we continue to share one-on-one interviews with our hometown Vietnam veterans — heroes who finally get to be heard.

Digital Exclusive

Decorated war correspondent Joe Galloway talks to FOX 5’s Kathleen Bade about the parallels being drawn between the Vietnam War and those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and whether our county’s leaders have learned the lessons of the Vietnam War.