Local Vietnam War veteran and Santa Clarita Valley resident Dan Bradley looked for the names of his fallen comrades on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. on Saturday.
Bradley said he’d looked for quite a few names inscribed on the memorial before. But, there were men from two nights during his time in Vietnam he was looking for on this trip. The dates of these nights are seared in his memory.
The first was June 19, 1969. Bradley had only been in Vietnam for a week when his battery — part of the 2nd battalion of the 138th Field Artillery of the Kentucky National Guard — was overrun. There were 10 Americans killed that night.
The second was April 13, 1970. Bradley was stationed at a firebase that was attacked. Four of his men were killed that night, with two others dying of their injuries later.
“Those are the ones I’ll be paying most attention to,” said Bradley.
The veteran was in the nation’s capital as part of Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization that organizes flights to war memorials and museums for veterans across the country.
Bradley’s flight included trips to Arlington National Cemetery, the United States Marine Corps Memorial, the World War ll Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Bradley accompanied 36 other veterans on his trip.
“Vietnam veterans, we’re getting older. I’m not sure if there’s going to be any veterans on this flight from World War ll or Korea. I’m sure it’ll be mostly, if not all, Vietnam vets. But we’re getting old and people don’t think about Vietnam as much as they used to,” said Bradley. “[People] need to keep in mind that we did what we were supposed to do at that time.”
Bradley is turning 80 this week and was 26 when he first landed in Vietnam. The average age of soldiers listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is 22.
He enlisted under the threat of the draft in 1966, “like a lot of us at that time,” said Bradley. After basic training in Texas and military police training in Georgia, he applied for the officer candidate school and was accepted.
By the time he was sent to Vietnam in 1969, a large part of the nation vehemently protested the country’s involvement in the war. Bradley said he didn’t necessarily oppose the war, at the time.
“Well, at that time I had fairly positive feelings about it. I probably could have avoided this because, for my OCS graduating class, only a very few of them ended up in Vietnam. They just commission too many. So most of us just served two years and were out,” said Bradley. “If I extended for a year, I would be promoted to captain. But, the caveat was I had to go to Vietnam. And I kind of felt like that was what I should be doing.”
And so Bradley went, where he led, fought and survived.
Bradley himself is a Gold Star Son — his father was killed in March of 1945 in Germany during the final stages of WWll.
Having the support of other veterans on his trip over the weekend was an experience Bradley revered — saying the entire trip was “wonderful.”
“I definitely feel like we’ll have lots of support,” said Bradley. “Whenever I’ve been there before, I’ve been there by myself. This [was] a little different.”