It Don’t Mean Nothing Brother. Nothing at All
Richard Wangard

In September of 1971, President Richard Nixon awarded the Presidential Unit Citation to the 834th Air Division—it’s second one. The action taken to receive such an award must be studied over time to see if it is earned, and it is given to every man in the entire unit. Nobody, in the three times I was in Vietnam, ever did anything for such a medal. We just wanted to survive. We flew so many missions, and nobody counted except the guys you lost. That took a toll on us who flew like nothing you can imagine.

I was medivaced out of Nam in October of 1970 after serving in six of the13 different campaigns in the Vietnam War, all with Detachment 1 of the 834th Air Division at Tan Son Nhut, Cam Ranh Bay and Phu Bai. All three flew all over Vietnam and were permanent status duty stations. All three were ignored by the Air Force and left off the order for the Presidential Unit Citation.

Why? In 1969 there was a huge build-up of troops in Vietnam. Protests were in full swing and by now the Vietnam vet was hated stateside. I just got sergeant stripes in April of 1970. I was 19, went in at 17.

Why were the three permanent attachments of the 834th not on that order for the Presidential Unit Citation, basically ignoring what thousands of airmen who paid the price in death and wounds? From April 1970 to June of 1970 we did the impossible, with impossible equipment, against impossible odds and against a superior enemy force when the Cambodian invasion went south and the North Vietnamese counterattacked. We flew nonstop in our C-130As to rescue as many as possible during the retreat for a period of three months, both the build-up for the invasion and the retreat.

You see, the Air Force didn’t want the public back in the States to know about the huge build-up of troops in Vietnam. The Air Force paperwork is pure B.S. I have documents and pictures to prove it.

In April 1970 I came home from Nam on a 30-day leave before going back for the third time, this time permanent duty for a year. I hated that leave and never finished it. I was tired of being mocked, hated and scorned. I got back to the only place I understood. Turned 20 and responsibility just grew and grew. My assignment was to fly anywhere to fix broken aircraft. But we had many, many mid-air diversions for medivacs because some unit was just in a firefight and to get needed troops to hospitals ASAP. So we dropped our resupply load and rigged the plane for medivac. Another problem: none of us were medics. All we could do for the 100 wounded was our best—all five or six of us. Guys died en route. Just a hair stressful, huh? No wonder we all drank like fishes off duty, except there hardly was any off duty.

So I inquired 50 years later through my senator to the Air Force Board in D.C. Remember, I had the orders, all the paperwork and pictures as well as letters from fellow airmen. It took forever; things were lost, had to be redone. Finally, two years later I got a one sentence answer. The detachments did not receive the Presidential Unit Citation.

We didn’t fly for medals or glory. We flew because someone had to. But thousands of airmen, all great guys who put all they had on the line, were ignored by the Air Force, just another chapter of the war nobody even cared about until I researched it and was denied by the Air Force Board. Do you really think the Air Force is going to admit anything?

The only thing that would square it is an act of Congress, and we all know what they do. Nothing. So as my Army brothers say, “Brother it don’t mean nothing. Nothing at all.”