On Veterans Day the veteran I most like to honor is my father. This is a picture of a 19-year-old Ssgt. Rollie Port with eye-bandages on at Phonm Vinh in Vietnam.
My father was the leader of a long-range reconnaissance platoon (LRRP) which had come to the rescue of another group of soldiers pinned down by fire. My father’s platoon punched through the enemy and carried two bodies and five wounded into a crater for protection then radioed for helicopter rescue.
When the helicopter arrived it hovered over the crater as my father and others attempted the load the dead and wounded, but it was soon shot down. It landed partially on my father, pushing his face into the dirt and temporarily blinding him.
For twenty-eight hours my father and the other soldiers were pinned down in that crater, with the enemy forces being held off by air support. Eventually reinforcements arrived and dispelled the enemy, rescuing my father and the others.
My father received the Silver Star, America’s third-highest military honor, for the valor he showed. By the time my father’s military service in Vietnam was up he would also be decorated with four Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts and an Air Medal.
I didn’t know much about this story until just recently. I’d always seen my father’s medals in the house. For one of his birthday’s, recently, my sisters and I had them taken out of the shabby frame they’d been collecting dust in for decades and had them mounted in a nice shadow box. But he’d never really shared the stories behind how he’d accumulated the medals. It wasn’t until my mom shared it with me recently that I knew the full story.
My father, perhaps understandably, just doesn’t see that era of his life as worth talking about.
Many of you have enjoyed a long weekend thanks to Veteran’s Day. While you’re enjoying it with your friends and family, also try to find out the story behind the service of some of the veterans in your life. They may be reluctant to share, but it’s important that we know and honor those stories.