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December 9, 2018

11/9/2018 2:11:00 PM
Vietnam veterans finally get their welcome home

When a soldier's service to his country in Vietnam was over the homecomings were all but a welcome.
It was in the 1960s and early 1970s when the protests of the US involvement in the war was moving at top speed and the soldiers were caught in the middle. A few volunteered to go to Vietnam but most were sent to fight the spread of communism into southeast Asia. Meanwhile those against the war were letting the government know their opposition and it carried over to unfriendly scenes as the soldiers returned for discharge of further duty.
Now, 50 or so years later, veterans of the Vietnam war are being thanked for their service and are being part of the Honor Flights. They are being honored and for the first time, being thanked for their service.
Part of the Honor Flight which is a trip to our nation's capitol in Washington DC, is a visit to the Vietnam Wall. The memorial wall includes the names of 58,000 soldiers who were killed in that war. For the veterans it is a time of reflection on the year or more they spent in that small place in southeast Asia.
In September three members of the Montfort Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9298 Ritchie-Bowers-Kohout were flown to DC as part of an Honor Flight. They were Johns S. Kohout, Michael Raymond Larson and Ronald D. Larson. Here are their stories.
Branch of Service:
Term of Service
Stationed in Vietnam
Long Bein
Gas Turbine Generator Repair
Medals Earned
Army Accommodation Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Medal
SP5 John S. Kohout was drafted into the US Army December 6, 1968, took his basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and his AIT at Fort Belvoir, Virginia where he studied to be a gas turbine generator repairman. While used by M.A.S.H. outfits in Korea the generators were not used in Vietnam as helicopters took the wounded to regular hospitals.
He received his orders for Vietnam and flew out of Fort Dix on October 6, 1969 with stops in Alaska and Hawaii where no one was allowed to deplane to prevent anyone going AWOL. He landed in Saigon and his first encounter was with the smell as there was no sanitation.
SP5 Kohout was assigned to the Comstock Logistic Support Center, a company that started out as the 57th Signal Company. The unit operated out of Long Bein and Kohout picked up KPs in the morning, took them home at night and picked up food for everyone.
After a month he was assigned to the motorpool full time where he worked on trucks, jeeps, and duce and a halfs (troop and supply carriers). He was equipped with a truck to hold an M-60 machine gun.
He was in Vietnam October 6, 1969 to October 4, 1970 and later received an honorable discharge. He was flown directly out of Vietnam to California and while he was given a uniform to wear home he could not because of the protesting and flag burning at a time when soldiers were not welcome home after serving their country. He dressed in civitan clothes, picked up his discharge papers and headed for Chicago where he caught a turbo-prop that stopped at every little airport between Chicago and Madison. The wings were flopping so bad it caused him to worry if he was ever going to get to Madison.
Kohout started working at Eastman Cartwright upon his return with Jim Christianson and his father, Ray. Jim asked him to join the Montfort VFW Post 9298 Ritchie-Bowers-Kohout which was named after his uncle Anthony Kohout. He has been a life member and has held the offices of quartermaster and commanding officer.
Branch of Service:
US Air Force
Term of Service
Stationed in Vietnam
Bien Hoa
Munitions Specialist
Medals Earned
Distinguished Service Medal
Commendation Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Medal
Michael R. Larson enlisted in the US Air Force in 1965 and served until 1969, taking his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. He later trained at Lowery Air Force Base in Colorado as a munitions specialist. He was then sent to Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan where he loaded nuclear bombs on B52 airplanes.
After a year he volunteered for Vietnam and was stationed at Bien Hoa Air Force Base in southern Vietnam where he loaded munitions on F-100s.
Upon his return from Vietnam they were greeted by very angry people which was not an exciting welcome home greeting.
Larson was then stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, AZ. He was honorably discharged in 1969.
Branch of Service
US Army
Term of Service
1970-1972 (Drafted)
Stationed in Vietnam
Long Bein
D9 Dozer Operator
Medals Earned
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Overseas Bar
Vietnam Service Medal
M-16 Rifle-Expert
Ronald D. Larson was drafted into the US Army October 23, 1970. He took his basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and his AIT at Fort Story, Virginia.  He was trained as a dozer operator and as a mechanic.
He went to Vietnam in 1971 and served until 1972 with the 155th Engineering Transportation Company.
John Kohout, Michael Larson and Ronald Larson were part of the Badger Honor Flight with 91 veterans in September that was the welcome home and thank you for your service they deserved. They all feel it was an experience of a lifetime.
All three had guardians they chose to make the flight with them. John's son Valarian Gerard Earl Kohout while Michael was accompanied by his son Brian and Ronald by his son Travis. All three guardians agreed it was a trip of a lifetime for their veteran fathers.
John sent an application April 15, 2016 and was informed he would be on a waiting list and he would receive a call when they got to his place on the list. The call came March 5, 2018 and he was scheduled for April but because of health problems he had to postpone. He also asked to go with the Larson brothers as they were all three from Montfort and belonged to the same VFW post. They were then scheduled for September departure.
On September 18 they had an orientation at the American Family Insurance building in Madison. The flight was set for September 21 from Madison where they were greeted by smiling volunteers shaking their hands and thanking them for their service.
The veterans deplaned at Regan National at 10 a.m. EST and received another welcome there. They boarded buses and received a police escort to Arlington National Cemetery where they had a chance to witness the Changing of the Guards at noon. A group photo was taking at 12:20.
The buses then took them to the Marine Corp Memorial where they saw the statue of the flag raising on Iwo-Jima. After a break for lunch they saw the Korean War Memorial then the Vietnam Wall Memorial where 58,000 names have been placed of those killed in action. They also saw the statue of three soldiers coming out of the Vietnam jungle.
Next was the Lincoln Memorial then the WWII Memorial which had stars for every 100 American soldiers killed in that war that had a death toll of 680,000.
The veterans flew from Reagan National to Madison where they landed at 8:30 p.m.
It was emotional to say the least.
The veterans arrived home to thousands of people who were cheering, shaking hands, applauding, shouting and cheering. There were many shouts of "welcome home" and "thank you for your service."
John Kohout describes his feelings this way:
"I was looking for my family, friends and neighbors. The Security Girls were the first ones across from my family. My daughter, Amanda, grabbed me and gave me a big hug. My wife Dianne and 10 year old grandson Carsen also hugged me. My siblings were there holding big welcome home signs and it was a surprise to have my nieces and nephews there too. My aunt Mary Lou and a cousin were taking pictures. My little sister would have been seven years old when I entered the service. With mom and dad we had a family of eight.
"The Badger Honor Flight was the trip of a lifetime for me healing wounds of the Vietnam War. the demonstrations back home and the draft-dodgers, 50 years ago."
Kohout also said Woodstock and much of the music were protest songs but all that did was help the veterans open up.
"The war was young men and women being lonely and away from home missing parents, wives, girlfriends and family. The uncertainty of not coming home was always there and knowing I lost my uncle in WWII made it moreso. Prayer is powerful."
"The Badger Honor Flight gave me an insight and I am amazed at all the men and women who have died in the wars. Arlington Cemetery is over 600 acres and all of it in a straight row are markers no matter what direction you look. Thank you Badger Honor Flight for a wonderful, organized flight, for "Mail Call" where I read many letters that appreciated our service and to the volunteers. God Bless America," he said.
Michael Larson knew after the orientation meeting the veterans were in for a very special Honor Flight.
"The organizers are very special people and the abundance of volunteers was overwhelming. It was truly amazing to feel the excitement and the friendly greetings," he said.
"When I walked into the airport the day of the flight I was overwhelmed by the people who were there to assist us. I shed a tear when I saw the American flag. The plane was decorated for us as though we were coming home from Vietnam. We were greeted in DC by two fire engines that gave us a water cannon salute over the place. This was a trip of a lifetime. I want to thank the president and founders of the Wisconsin Badger Honor Flight from the bottom of my heart for allowing us veterans to experience such an awesome day.
"I want to thank my wife, Denise, family and friends, son Brian my escort and the thousands there to greet us when we landed. God Bless everyone and God Bless the United States of America," he said.
His brother, Ronald, shared his sentiments, calling the Honor Flight the opportunity of a lifetime experience.
"I want to praise and thank all the volunteers for their dedication and support that they gave to each one of us. It was a very emotional day for me.
"I want to thank my son, Travis, my guardian, for his dedication and support throughout the day and for the support my family and friends gave me. The sites like the Vietnam Wall, Arlington National Cemetery with the Changing of the Guard, the Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial and the Korean Wall Memorial were all unbelievable and heartwarming. I was blessed to be part of this and I am so proud I served my country. God Bless America, " he said.
Upon return to Montfort the Montfort Fire Department escorted them to Veterans Memorial Park with neighbors, family, friends and the VFW Security Girls waiting for them. Patty Gobin spoke, songs were sung and the color guard was present.
As John Kohout said, "What a wonderful way to end a fantastic day. Thank you so much.

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