Veterans share powerful stories in Tallahassee to mark National Vietnam Veterans Day

A special 50th Anniversary Commemoration featured powerful tributes to lives lost in combat and friendships formed decades ago.
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 11:23 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2022 at 11:05 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Despite an unusually warm March sun, dozens gathered at the Tallahassee National Cemetery Tuesday to mark National Vietnam Veterans Day.

A special 50th Anniversary Commemoration featured powerful tributes to lives lost in combat and friendships formed decades ago.

Tallahassee resident Richard Duley flew Chinook Helicopters in the war. He beamed with joy as the Florida National Guard landed a Chinook on the cemetery’s grounds ahead of the service.

“Just looking at it brings back all kinds of memories of the two times I was shot down, and the people that I rescued,” he said. “I used to call myself a UPS driver, I delivered water, food, ammo, all kinds of things.”

His grandkids got a personal tour of the Chinook, getting a chance to explore the cockpit and to learn a bit more about their grandpa.

“I feel very proud of my grandpa, I can’t believe he flew one of these giant things,” granddaughter Emily said.

The day would only get more special from there. Duley soon reconnected with a long lost friend.

Duley went to Louisiana for Basic Training in 1968. That’s where he met and befriended another Floridian, Wayne Hooper.

Hooper was only 19 when he his aircraft was shot down over Cambodia. He became paralyzed from the waist down.

But speaking to the crowd Tuesday, Hooper said he considers himself one of the lucky ones.

“I thank God every morning I wake up for allowing me to live one more day,” he said.

After decades apart, the two friends finally reconnected- and plan to stay in touch the rest of their lives.

They hope their friendship serves as a reminder to celebrate heroes.

“When you raise your right hand and swear to defend the Constitution of the United States, we all know what that means- that’s with your life,” Hooper said.

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