Veterans Memorial Park

Veterans Remember Khe Sanh

  • November 6, 2015
  • /   Chris Kazakos
  • /   Post Tags

On Thursday evening, the monuments at Veterans Memorial Park in Pensacola were not the only focal point.

A mixed crowd of civilians, veterans and their families gathered on a perfect night at the park, as the sun set, for the last "Heroes Among Us” speaker series in 2015 to learn about the one of the Vietnam War’s most storied events: the battle of Khe Sanh.

Sponsored by the Marine Corps League of Pensacola, "Heroes Among Us” features local veterans once a month, at the Park, who are willing to share their stories to educate and remind civilians of the sacrifices made during foreign war’s.

On this night, four local veterans stood under the Marine Corps Tower and spoke about their own unique struggles and triumphs during and after the War in Vietnam.

"I was honored to be invited here,” said speaker Sonny Campbell, a Vietnam veteran and owner of The Sandshaker Lounge on Pensacola Beach. "What a great park this is. It was an honor to do this. I’m not a good speaker, but I really enjoyed meeting the guys again.”

While Campbell, a Marine Corps sniper who fought in the battle of Khe Sanh, was humble about his speaking abilities, the crowd surrounding the Bell Tower listened intently to every word he said.   

"This was a great opportunity to learn about a subject I knew nothing about,” said Frank Schmidts, a Pensacola resident who came to Veterans Park with his family for the event. "We need this park and these types of talks so nobody ever forgets what these men and women sacrificed for our country.”

Khe Sanh is a village located near the Laotian border and just south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separated North and South Vietnam. The 1968 battle was the longest and deadliest of the Vietnam War, pitting the U.S. Marines and their allies against the North Vietnamese Army. The fighting around Khe Sanh began January 21, 1968 and concluded around April 8, 1968.

"I was there before the siege started,” said Campbell. "I was very green, very scared. But I had some great guys to guide me and teach me the ropes of Vietnam. We lost a lot, but thanks to them we pulled up out of there after 77 days.”

Billy Hill, another local veteran and speaker who grew up in Pensacola, shared the ominous lesson he learned after Vietnam.

"I was wounded by some pieces of shrapnel and almost ashamed to get the Purple Heart from that because it was just three little pieces,” said Hill. "They carried me up to Charlie Med took them out and sent me on back to the mortar pit. When I left Khe Sanh after being wounded, I thought my war was over. I skated. That was an old Marine Corps saying, "you skated,” and I felt like I didn’t have anything to worry about after that. I thought I had slipped by.”

Five months later, Hill was at an outpost that was hit by snipers. He lost his left leg as result of the attack.

"The War keeps on going,” he said. "Just because you had one bad day in combat doesn’t mean it’s over with. It’s not over until it’s over.”

Veterans Memorial Park