Auburn, Al- It was a different America in 1968 when James Hughley returned home from being wounded in the Vietnam War. There was no fanfare or special recognition for his service, which is all the more reason why Thursday night was so incredibly special.
“Those purple hearts, that bronze star, I never was formally awarded them,” says Hughley.”I think I got one purple heart when I was stationed back at Fort Benning, but I was never in a formation that said thank you.”
But while in the trenches, Hughley says a brotherhood was formed that transcended cultural differences and created inseparable bonds; like the bond shared by Veterans Kenneth Fields and Paul Reeves.
“We flew on the same helicopter, same flight platoon and we get together…we spent our first New Year’s on January 1, 1968,” says Reeves. “We have not missed New Year’s together in fifty years.”
“Just like the saying on Facebook-best friends forever,” says Fields.
“Brotherhood. It don’t happen no more, but if you have somebody that served in combat and risked their life with everybody, it’s a bond that you can’t…that man is tighter than family with me,” says Reeves.
Reeves and Fields both say if given the chance, they’d do it all over again.
“I felt like it was my duty to do it and I done it, and have no regrets about it,” says Fields.
Veteran honoree Maj. Gen. James Livingston acknowledged the sacrifice and icy reception some soldiers received upon their return home.
“I’ve looked at the stats and 87% of you would make that same choice today,” says Livingston. “And that’s the reason why I say you’re a remarkable group of men.”