Local Veterans Share Vietnam Homecoming Stories

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NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFSM) -- It's been 50 years since the beginning of the Vietnam War. At the time, sending U.S. troops to Vietnam was widely viewed as a bad decision, and the soldiers coming home from the war felt that sentiment.

Holiday Island native Steve Isaacson was a field medic with the Army in Vietnam from 1970-1974. He worked on recovery and evacuation in the heat of the battle.

"It will always stay with me, every day," Isaacson said. "It'll never go away."

He said his first experience back on American soil was not a positive one. Isaacson said he flew into Chicago, then walked outside to catch a ride to the bus.

"I came out, I brought my duffel bag out, I was going to take a Greyhound bus to my hometown," Isaacson said.  "The cab driver put my duffel bag in his trunk, I got in the backseat, he got in the car, he asked me where I came from and I told him. He got out of the car, got the duffel bag and threw it out of the car and told me to get out of the car."

Isaacson's experience is one many Vietnam veterans had after they came home from serving. Protests took over the capital at the beginning of the war and continued until its end.

"Back in the Vietnam era and everything else, we were generally called baby killers," Isaacson said. "That I don't want to get into, that's a very touchy subject."

For Army quartermaster Bob Grubbs, his experience coming home was a little different. Grubbs served in Vietnam from 1970-1971.

"I went to the restroom in the airport and it was locked up. You had to put a coin in to get into the stall, and I didn't have a penny with me," Grubbs said. "So I was getting ready to crawl over the top or under or whatever it was, and the custodian was in there and he said, 'Let me let you in.'"

Grubbs said he didn't talk about the war for more than 30 years after he got back, despite his own somewhat positive first experience back in the States.

"You see this hat, probably only been within the last couple years I would put this hat on," Grubbs said. "I was not embarrassed to be a Vietnam vet, I was very proud of the service, but I was very embarrassed by the way we were treated by the American people."

Both Grubbs and Isaacson agreed the homecoming was the least of their concerns when it comes to the memories from that time in their lives.

"I used to be extremely jumpy," Grubbs said. "The fact is, if you walked behind me and surprised me I would have either shot you if I had a gun or I would have hit you -- I would have done it without thinking."

Isaacson said for him, it's more the sights of fireworks and explosions, as well as the sounds of war.
"I have a problem with the sound of helicopters," Isaacson said. "I hear a helicopter, no."
Today, Isaacson said he is proud to wear the uniform and still does on special occasions. He said he's made it his mission to help other veterans get past what happened in Vietnam and in wars since.
"I sometimes, I guess, act like a suicide hotline for a lot of veterans and they call me and that's what I do, and it helps me also," Isaacson said.
To hear from another local Vietnam veteran about his experience, click here.