(Photo by John Cook) Vietnam War veteran Don Green, of Cass City, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967 and was in Vietnam from January 1968 to August 1969. In March, he received a custom eagle-head cane, carved by a member of the Michigan Wood Carvers Association.

(Photo by John Cook)
Vietnam War veteran Don Green, of Cass City, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967 and was in Vietnam from January 1968 to August 1969. In March, he received a custom eagle-head cane, carved by a member of the Michigan Wood Carvers Association.

Over 50 years after he arrived in South Vietnam to serve in the Vietnam War, U.S. Army veteran Don Green of Cass City notices that more and more younger folks are thanking him for his service to America.

“That never used to happen,” he said. “If I’m out and see another veteran, I’ll tell him, welcome home brother.”

Another way Green, 70, was honored happened March 12 at the Tuscola County Health Department in Caro. There, Green was one of five Vietnam War veterans who received a custom eagle-head cane.

“I’m very appreciative of people remembering what all the veterans did during the Vietnam War,” Green said that day. “It’s nice now that we’re older, to see people thank us for our service instead of disrespecting it.”

When Green arrived in Fort Lewis, Wash. after completing a tour in Vietnam in August of 1969, he was not one of the service members who returned to anti-war protests. Flying into a base, and not an international airport, meant Green avoided a public that at the time, included many who were vocal about the war, and those who fought it.

“I wasn’t one of them that received chants of being a baby killer. I didn’t have to witness any of that,” he said. “I feel I did what I was supposed to do, and I tried to make the best of it.”

Green was born in Mount Clemens and spent most of his life in Roseville, where he graduated from Roseville High School in 1966.

“In high school, not being in the service, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the war,” Green said. “I would watch the nightly news, but I don’t recall discussing it with my friends until after I was in.”

Green knew it was only a matter of time before he got a draft notice in the mail, so he met with a recruiter from the U.S. Army.

About a year after high school graduation, in June 1967, Green enlisted in the U.S. Army. Between graduation and enlisting, Green worked at AWT Metal Specialties in Warren, which is where he returned to work after the war, retiring in 2006.

Once in the Army, Green was sent to Fort Knox in Kentucky for basic training. After which he went to Fort Lee, Va. for 16 weeks of quartermaster school, which is a subordinate command of the Army’s Combined Arms Support Command. There, Green was trained in various skills and functions.

“Evidently, the training was sufficient to keep me out of the ground troops,” he said.

Upon completion of quartermaster school, Green was sent to Nha Trang, Vietnam, where he landed in January 1968.

“At Cam Ranh Bay, I was awestruck the first night when I was watching helicopters shooting bullets with tracer rounds,” he said.

Green compared it to being in the twilight zone, a phrase used to describe the mental state between reality and fantasy.

“You’re standing there, they don’t have their lights on, once you start seeing the red lines coming down, you know they are firing at something,” he said. “That was strange and a wake-up call.”

Green was in the 20th Engineer Battalion at Camp Enari in Pleiku, in the central highlands of Vietnam. Enari was home of the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division.

“The 20th Engineer Battalion was engineering support for the 4th Infantry Division,” he said. “If you can envision a Home Depot, and place that over in Vietnam, that’s basically what it was. We ran a big lumber yard with building materials that engineers would need (for construction).”

His job was to keep track of materials that were used, and order more when necessary. Almost every day, Green said, materials would arrive.

“I would fill out requisition forms for the yard to be replenished,” he said.

Green’s unit left Camp Enari for Engineer Hill, also in Pleiku, in February 1969, at that point, he had been in Vietnam for over one year. He stayed at Engineer Hill until he left Vietnam for good in August 1969.

At Enari, Green can remember times when “Charlie used to mortar us, and I spent a few nights jumping out of bed and grabbing my weapon and heading out to the bunker. There might have been four or five times in that period.”

Charlie was the name used by U.S. and South Vietnamese to refer to the Viet Cong, an opposition force to the U.S.

“The ‘68 Tet Offensive started when we first got in-country and the whole camp was on 24-hour guard duty because they were suspecting a regiment of the North Vietnamese Army to try to engage Camp Enari,” Green added. “That didn’t occur.”

The Tet Offensive was a coordinated series of North Vietnamese attacks on more than 100 cities and outposts in South Vietnam that began in January 1968.

While in Vietnam, Green didn’t know too much about what was going on elsewhere in the country, or America’s overall war efforts. He received information from the Armed Forces Vietnam Network or from watching the news back home in America.

“I think our involvement there, as it has been proven through the years, shows how our government would inflate the death count we inflicted on the Viet Cong and probably didn’t give the right death count for how many U.S. soldiers were killed,” Green said.

Upon returning from Vietnam, Green completed his final 10 months in the Army at Fort Riley in Kansas at the rank of  E5 specialist, before he was honorably discharged on June 29, 1970.

“In hindsight it worked out for me,” he said. “I wasn’t a infantryman and I never engaged the North Vietnamese Army.”

Green lives with his wife Rita in Cass City, where they moved in 2015. The couple has two sons.