Richard Allison knows firsthand the disparity in the
receptions for Vietnam veterans compared with Desert
Storm (the Gulf War, 1990-1991) and Enduring Freedom
(the war in Afghanistan, 2001-present). He is a veteran of
all three wars.
Allison was a 99-pound 18-year-old right out of high
school in the small town of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, when
he joined the Navy in 1965. He enlisted because he had
no money and no job. His stint in Vietnam was short. He
came back to attend electronics school five months after
being deployed in January 1966. His return home was
But Allison knows what happened to Vietnam veterans
later in the war, and understands the difference in his expe-rience
had everything to do with timing.
“I was there and back before anyone noticed,” Allison
explains. “The war wasn’t popular, but it was not on the
news every night.”
Everything changed in the late 1960s. With the My Lai
Massacre, the Tet Offensive and the release of portions of
the Pentagon Papers, public opinion and support for the
war disintegrated and protests grew across the country.
Protesters didn’t discriminate between the politicians mak-ing
the decisions and the veterans who were just follow-ing
orders — many of them drafted into service with no
recourse but to fight.
In 1991, after Allison returned from Desert Storm, one
of the welcome-home parades was held in Dallas.
Vietnam veterans were invited to lead the parade.
“I felt good about it,” Allison says. “It was about
When he returned home in 2004 after six months’
deployment in Enduring Freedom, his wife met him
at Love Field.
“She had a small American flag that she waved
back and forth,” he says. “I was so moved it brought
tears to my eyes.”
Allison agrees that people are more appreciative of
the military now.
“But the sad thing that bothers me is that a lot of
people today don’t understand the military issues,” he
says. “They don’t understand the sacrifice that people
in the military make.”
Yet Allison is proud to be career military, serving
21 years in the Navy and five years with the Marines.
“I show my ID a lot,” Allison says. “I’m proud of
it. People say, ‘Thank you for your service’ now. Sometimes
it’s a little hollow, but I’m glad to hear it.”
Allison lives in Leland and is an active volunteer on the
Battleship North Carolina.
Allison in dress blues,
at the time the uniform
required for liberty. His
rank when he served in
Vietnam was Seaman
“which is pretty much
the lowest rank (other
than recruit) that one
can be.” Allison in
dress whites on the
flight deck of the USS
Yorktown in September
1965. He visited the
ship again 46 years
later when it was in
Richard Allison with Company 290 at
Navy basic training, conducted from
June to Sept 1965 at Great Lakes
Training Center in Illinois. Allison
aboard the USS Kaskaskia (AO-27).
WBM PHOTOS COURTESY OF RICHARD ALLISON