The Vietnam Veterans of America will be hosting a Vietnam Veterans Fundraising Benefit on February 24, 2018. The concert portion will feature music by Gerry and the Dreambenders, with their British Invasion Era Rock Tribute Show. If you haven’t seen Gerry and the Dreambenders yet, you’ll be in for a treat.
Paul Sherman, Treasurer of Treasure Valley Chapter 1025 of the Vietnam Veterans of America said about the goals of the fundraising for the Vietnam Veterans Fundraising Benefit event, “We have many areas in which we assist fellow Veterans regardless of the era they were involved. Our priority is Vietnam era and their families and then any other era we can assist. We assist the Women’s Wellness Clinic at the VAMC with several projects, but primarily vouchered transportation funds so that the women can get to their appointments. The Idaho State Veterans Home has been another group we have assisted. We also supply Veterans and their families with Holiday Meals during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Our motto is: Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another”.
The Boise Beat’s Terry Welch sat down with one such local Veteran to hear his story. This was his life and what he went through:
In 1967, Mr. Ted Welty volunteered for military service in Vietnam. His first year’s experience there would be filled with bombings and assassinations in the city of Saigon, a location hotly fought over both politically and militarily. This was not his first year in a combat zone, but it was one of the more memorable, although he characterized his experience in Saigon as “mostly boring.”
Mr. Welty told me about Saigon Sal, as she would come to be nicknamed by the local American, Australian, and New Zealand forces. She’d speed through the city on the back of a motorbike firing at “anything that wasn’t a Vietnamese. She was a VC. A Vietcong.” To the American forces there, this was unacceptable, and returning fire to prevent the senseless death of innocent civilians was an appropriate response. But in the murky politics of the Vietnam War, forces there were strongly discouraged from returning fire to prevent such activities. Mr. Welty recalls, “General Westmoreland put out an order that said that if anyone was fired at by her, we were not to return fire because we didn’t know if the person driving that Honda was a hostage or a VC.” But, as Ted explained, anyone that threatened the lives of innocent people would be denied the ability to do so. “Provo Rosa put out the word that if ‘my MP’s get shot at, they will return fire!’” As Ted explains, his first taste of the Vietnam War in 1967 was busy with contradiction, controversy, and the fight for power. The EOD, or, Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, was at the top of Mr. Welty’s radio-contact list. He described to me how the EOD would arrive to disarm the North Vietnamese Army’s version of the Claymore mine. Mr. Welty found these devices in hotels, bars, and other public places. It was a busy year, and one that was about to conclude with a bang.
On January 30st, 1968, the Tet Offensive broke out. It was designed and planned by the Vietcong as a coordinated attack on various cities in South Vietnam, specifically targeting the occupying forces there. Ted was still in Saigon, and on this night he was guarding a hotel on a street called Tran Hung Dao. “They called the Alert Squad out, and they told everybody to get dressed for everything, this is not an alert, we are under attack.” “We had the Capitol Hotel here,” pointing to a spot on the coffee table before us, “and the Saint George Hotel behind us which held the infantry, and on the other side was the 7th Finance building.” Ted said that in the middle of these three buildings was not an American hotel–it was a Vietnamese-owned hotel. There was a firefight. He said that “they estimated 37 rounds came out of that Vietnamese hotel (targeting American forces), and an estimated 37,000 rounds went into it. And that was not just the 45’s and the M-16’s, but the M-79 also.” “They went in two days later and there was a body count of 32 in the hotel. Whether they were all VC or civilians or whatever, I don’t know. Whether I hit anybody I don’t know. That’s just something I’ll have to face with God when I get there.”
Long before Ted was an MP in Saigon in 1967, he was Airborne. “When I first went in, I was Airborne. I wanted to be a paratrooper. I took basic training at Fort Carson. I went through AIT, which is Advanced Individual Training, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Then I spent a year in the infantry; I was a machine-gunner, firing the 30 caliber.” Ted spent 6 months in Germany, training as an MP. He rose to a leadership position because of his experience in jump school and went to Okinawa, Japan, for 2 years. After which, he volunteered for Vietnam in 1967.
Mr. Welty spent many years of his life in service to his country. He earned many awards, including his Jump Wings, the Bronze Star, an Air Medal, a Good Conduct Medal, a Berlin Medal, a Vietnamese Service Medal, a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, Presidential Unit Citations for working at the Nike Hercules Missile Site, among others. My conversation with Ted lasted several hours. Some of the information he provided to me can not be included here, but one thing shines above all else–he loves his country and the values that make it so great. “We didn’t distinguish one color from another—we were all in it together, regardless of race or color. It didn’t make any difference if he was black, white, Hispanic, Indian, what.”
When asked about any regrets or reflections of things that he wished could have been different, he said “Tet of 68.” People were killed that night that he believes might have survived, had he been able to get to them in time. “If I would have been there (in that part of Saigon instead of in a firefight in the hotel he was guarding), I don’t think they would have been in that situation.”
“I joined because it was an honor to do it. I was proud to do it.”
Mr. Welty told me that in all of his military experience—in all of his combat experience, one moment still haunts him to this day. Beyond the woman who was blown up in front of him, or the many other experiences that he spoke about which must remain untold, this is perhaps the moment he will never be able to forget; He told me that upon returning to America, landing in Oakland, California, his team was met with protesters, objections, and objects hurled. This isn’t an editorial, but coming from an “anti-war” education and roots, I’ve learned a tremendous amount by talking with Ted about what it means to be an American. Thank you for your service, Mr. Ted Welty.
When asked what message he would give to people these days, he said sternly, “Back your country! Back the men and women that fight for this country!”
The Vietnam Veterans Fundraising Benefit will feature music by Gerry and the Dreambenders. A catered dinner will also be available, catered by Triangle Restaurant in nearby Sweet, Idaho. It should be a wonderful evening to support a great cause.
Vietnam Veterans Fundraising Benefit
Mardi Gras Event Center
615 S. 9th Street
Boise, ID 83702
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Event minimum suggested donation:$15
Food catered by Triangle Restaurant, full meal: $7
Interview and all photographs by Terry Welch