Minutes after he was presented a Certificate of Honor on Saturday, David Icard of Buena Vista recalled the night he saw five Marines severely wounded during a mortar attack near Da Nang in South Vietnam.
Icard, 69, wasn’t welcomed home in April 1967, but he’s thankful to be among soldiers who returned alive from the war.
“They were all protesting,” he said as his plane landed in San Francisco. “Anybody that served didn’t feel too good about it.”
During a ceremony at the Marine Corps Detachment at Fort Benning, the Georgia Department of Veterans Service recognized Icard and 18 other Marines for their service in Vietnam. The recognition is part of the state veterans service program and Gov. Nathan Deal to honor 234,000 Georgia veterans who served in the armed forces during the war.
Mike Roby, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service, joined state Sen. Ed Harbison, a Vietnam War veteran in the Marines, to recognize members of the Marine Corps League.
“I think it’s long overdue,” Roby said of the ceremony. “I think it is something we should have done a long time ago. It is an honor to be part of recognizing the service that they gave in Vietnam.”
Since the program started last year as part of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, Roby said the veterans service has presented more than 10,000 certificates and 8,500 lapel pins.
“Our goal is to reach all 234,000 Georgia veterans who served during that time,” he said.
During his 13 months and five days in Vietnam, Icard said he lost a fellow Marine when he stepped on what was called a "Bouncing Betty" mine on June 22, 1966.
“ I was there,” he said.
More than a month later, Icard said his squad was in pitch darkness when mortars started pounding their camp.
“I saw five Marines get hit,” said Icard, a sergeant at the time. “It blew one Marine’s left shoulder off.”
Donald Anthony, a Marion County resident, said the state honor is nice but a little late.
“They put a lot of effort into it and I appreciate it,” said Anthony, who served in Vietnam from November 1965 to December 1966 as a combat medic with the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Division. He served near Da Nang, Ha Long, Chu Lai and other provinces.
Anthony said he had served 13 months in Vietnam before his brother was deployed with the Big Red One. 1st Lt. David Marshall Anthony was killed in action.
“I was in Okinawa and he was going over,” he said.
Col. Robert St. Clair, who retired as colonel and lives in Columbus, said he was a lieutenant while serving as a communications officer near the DMZ. He was part of a five-man team that advised the South Vietnamese soldiers.
“You are always looking over your shoulder,” St. Clair said. “You either are very tense or very bored.”
During a visit to North Vietnam two years ago, St. Clair said you could still feel the presence of the Communists but the people were polite and wanted the tourist dollar.
“You could feel like you’ve got be a little careful,” he said.
The feeling was much different in the South Vietnam, he said.
“People loved Americans,” he said. “They welcomed you back. As soon as you get to Da Nang, it ‘s like a different country.”
Howard W. Gould, commander of the Marine Corps League, said it’s a privilege to get recognition for the Marines. The league is open to any honorably discharged Marine. To get more information, contact Gould at 706-565-1979.