West AL military institute remembers Vietnam War 50 years later

Published: Oct. 28, 2016 at 8:24 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2016 at 10:57 PM CDT
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MARION, AL (WSFA) - A west Alabama school stepped back in time, and history, on Friday by remembering the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War; a war that claimed tens of thousands of lives and left wounds that are still being felt today.

"I was in it in '65 and '66," said Hank Collins.

Collins was right in the middle of it. He spent one year in Vietnam and that was enough.

The former pilot was never spat on when he came home like so many of his fellow comrades. It was a different time.

On Friday, the head of the Marion Military Institute remembered people like Hank Collins with the utmost respect, acknowledging some of the gut-wrenching sacrifices they made in the name of freedom.

"The sacrifice was not in vain. Despite the unpopularity of the Vietnam War, the insults, despite the sometimes irrational hate, our servicemen and women still risked their lives for their country and each other," said Marion Military Institute Col. David Mollahan.

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the war included the unveiling of a temporary plaque. The real one will soon join the Alabama Military Hall of Honor.

Later, the cadets put on a parade for the veterans; a parade to show off their precision and military pride.

The Vietnam War claimed more than 58,000 lives, some of whom were dear friends of Hank Collins.

"We were shot at as much as anyone else," Collins remembered.

Nine million Americans served on active duty during the Vietnam War years. Collins wrote a book about his Vietnam War experience called 'Eyes Over The Delta' published in 2014.

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