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‘We were treated like kings’

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Honor Flight honoree Dave Breed of Cortlandville talks Thursday about his service during the Vietnam War.

The cab driver looked at Dave “Fuzzy” Breed and with no civility in his voice, told him to get out. It was 1968, and Breed, still in his uniform, was just off the plane from Vietnam.

Some welcome.

Fifty years later, Breed got back on the plane Saturday, this time for an Honor Flight.

Honor Flight is non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing veterans transport to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at memorials.

“It was great,” Breed, 71, said.

Breed’s granddaughter, Chelsea Breed, submitted his name three years ago. He’s been waiting to hear back since. Three months ago, the wait was over.

“Back in July we were going out and we stopped at the mailbox and my wife picked the mail out and as we were pulling away she said, ‘Holy cow,’” he said. “I said, ‘Well, what’s the matter,’ and she said, ‘You got chosen for the honor flight.’”

The flight was Saturday.

June 1966

Breed was two weeks out of high school when he got the notice: Report for a physical in Syracuse. Then he was ordered to report Sept. 7 to a bus station in Syracuse to ship out for military service. He had been drafted for a twoyear stint. “I had never been away from home before,” he said. He had never been on a plane before either.

Saturday

Breed got to Syracuse Hancock International Airport at 4:30 a.m.

“When we got checked in, I’ll tell you what, we were treated like kings,” Breed said.

From there the service continued. People approached the veterans and shook hands, thanking them for their service.

“I have never in my life shook hands as many times as I did Saturday,” Breed said. “From older people, adults, teenagers, little kids.”

People in the airport clapped, waved signs and cheered, Breed said.

Next he was placed on the plane. “I’ll be damned if we didn’t get a first-class seat on the plane,” he said. “Right up front. On our ticket, it said 2C.”

Jan. 1, 1968

Breed arrived at the Bien Hoa Air Base in Vietnam. “I was scared as hell,” he said.

While stationed at the base, Breed was a truck driver — hauling napalm and ammunition — and a typist-clerk with the 352nd Transportation unit.

Just 29 days later, Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army launched the Tet Offensive, on cities and towns throughout South Vietnam. — and right at Bien Hoa Air Base. For a day and a half, Breed was stuck in a bunker.

The fighting lasted for 2 1/2 days. In those 2 1/2 days, Breed, the U.S. military and a nation that thought the war was almost won was an endeavour very much in doubt.

Saturday

The plane landed in Washington. “They had fire trucks squirting water over the top of the plane and the ground crew people were waving flags and signs,” he said. “What a reception we had in Washington. I mean it was great.”

During the reception and tour water was provided as well as a lunch, Breed said.

The veterans made stops to the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Monument, Korean War Monument, the Air Force Monument, The Navy Monument, the Marine Monument. And the Vietnam Memorial — a jet-black wall with the name of every U.S. war fighter who died in Vietnam, 58,267 of them.

Breed couldn’t get close to the Vietnam wall — many other people not in the group were in front of the group. However, he saw the traveling monument when it came to Cortland in 1987.

Then they returned home.

September 1968

Breed, 21, was with a friend trying to make it home after their tour in the war. He was in California trying to get to the airport to get home to Cortland.

He had just spent the night before Labor Day weekend being processed to go home.

“That’s when the fun started with me,” Breed said.

Breed and friend were going to get a taxi. “So we got in the taxi and the cab driver turned around and he said ‘Where are you guys coming from?’” Breed said. “We said, ‘We just come home from Vietnam,’ and he said, ‘Get the —- out of my cab.’”

They waited for a second cab and finally made it to the airport. The cabbie didn’t ask where they were coming from — and they didn’t volunteer it.

No parade. No thank you. No cheering. Until Saturday.

Saturday

After the day’s trip, Breed came home to another reception in Syracuse. “We could see over the fence in Syracuse all kinds of people lined up, waving flags and hollering,” Breed said.

The veterans received Honor Flight coins, homemade quilts and a parade.

“At the end of it (the day) the guy in charge said, ‘Honor Flight No. 12, you are dismissed,’” Breed said.

Breed will never forget the trip: the cheers, the people — and the recognition.

“You go up through there and they all got their hand out shaking your hand, patting you on the back and I never had that before,” Breed said. “So it took 50 some years to get recognition for serving my country and I’m not the only one.”

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