My dad is the understated, modest type who’s reluctant to talk about his service in Vietnam. In fact, he will likely be irritated with me when he sees this, but after years of writing assorted Memorial and Veterans Day tributes about others, it occurred to me that I had never extended this simple courtesy to my own father. And candidly speaking, as one who was just old enough to recall crossing days off the calendar, my parents’ R&R reunion in Hawaii (we all went through a Don Ho phase after that — Tiny Bubbles and One Paddle, Two Paddle, anyone?), and going to Newark Airport in pajamas to greet Dad upon his return, I also remember how my father’s service was — well, less than appreciated at the time.
My family was very fortunate in that Dad came home, so technically, I should wait for Veterans Day for this small tribute, but I hope you’ll forgive my impatience as I take this opportunity to show in pictures a slightly different perspective of the Vietnam War through some of the tour-of-duty photos of a gentleman who is now Col. George C. Smolenyak, U.S. Army, retired — the man I’m lucky enough to call Dad.
In his honor, I’d be grateful if you’d thank a veteran for his or her service — this Memorial Day, next Veterans Day, or whenever the chance arises.